Last night the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced recommendations that those most vulnerable or at-risk of coronavirus infection should be offered a third coronavirus vaccine. However, the rest of the population will have to wait as plans for a booster rolloutfor the wider public is still under discussion.
Third vaccine is not considered a booster shot
Health officials have declared that the third dose to be rolled out to almost half a million residents with impaired immune systems is not considered a booster shot. Instead, it will form part of their primary vaccination schedule.
GPs and health care providers will decide on a case-by-case basis as to when immunocompromised individuals should go in for their third COVID jab.
Prof Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI’s Covid-19 immunisation group, justified the third vaccine doses:
We want people with severely suppressed immune systems to have the best chance of gaining protection from COVID-19 via vaccination. Therefore, we are advising they have a third vaccine dose on top of their initial two doses, as we hope this will reduce their risk of severe outcomes such as hospitalisation and death.
The third jab announcement comes not long after early results of the OCTAVE study showed 40% of those with an impaired immune system produced little to no antibody response after their first two COVID jabs.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid added: ‘We know people with specific conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 may have received less protection against the virus from two vaccine doses. I am determined to ensure we are doing all we can to protect people in this group, and a third dose will help deliver that.’
Mass booster rollout plans are still on hold
The NHS Trusts had been advised to prepare for a mass COVID booster rollout from Monday the 6th of September, based on the JCVI advice given back in June. The rollout would see all those over 50 offered a third COVID vaccine before Christmas. However, booster plans have since been put on hold as decision-makers are still waiting on more evidence on the benefits of a third dose for the wider public.
However, Mr Javid revealed in his announcement that the NHS would continue ‘to plan for’ a mass booster rollout to begin later this month.
Meanwhile, Germany, France and Israel have already announced their COVID booster rollouts, with many other countries not far behind. France’s Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) said in a statement on Tuesday:
After analysing the available data, the HAS proposes a booster dose with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna, editor's note) for people aged 65 and over, as well as for people with comorbidities that increase the risk of severe forms of COVID-19.
Despite booster rollouts already underway in some countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged wealthier countries not to rush the scheme. WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan explained:
We clearly believe that the current data does not indicate that boosters are necessary.
Dr Swaminathan continued to point out the ‘moral and ethical’ issues of wealthy countries issuing potentially unnecessary boosters ‘when the rest of the world is waiting for its first injection.’