Last reviewed 12 January 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has told clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) patients to continue to shield against Covid-19 even after being fully vaccinated against the virus.

The Government had set a target for every patient in the top four priority groups to be vaccinated by 15 February at the latest. However, it has said in updated shielding guidance, that the most vulnerable must continue to shield while it assesses the impact of the vaccinations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested last week that, if vaccine rollout is successful, deaths start to fall, our understanding of the virus “does not change dramatically once again” and the public adhere to the restrictions, the lockdown could begin to ease from mid-February. He said: “I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and cautiously starting to move regions down the tiers.”

However, shielding guidance, updated for the period of national lockdown and published on 7 January, said even if CEV patients have had both doses of the vaccine, they should continue to follow the Government’s shielding advice until further notice “as we continue to assess the impact of vaccination among all groups”. It added: “The people you live with should continue to follow the public health rules and guidance as long as they are in place, including if you have received the vaccine and also if they have received the vaccine.”

The newly-published patient group direction (PGD) for the administration of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to individuals in accordance with the national Covid-19 vaccination programme also confirmed that immunosuppressed individuals, who feature on the shielding list, “may not make a full immune response to the vaccine”, which is the same advice given for the Pfizer vaccine. It said: “As with all vaccines, immunisation may not result in protection in all individuals. Immunosuppressed individuals should be advised that they may not make a full immune response to the vaccine.”

The PGD is at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/publication/patient-group-direction-for-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca-chadox1-s-recombinant/.

The guidance updated on 7 January, COVID-19: Guidance on Shielding and Protecting People Defined on Medical Grounds as Extremely Vulnerable, is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19.