Last reviewed 7 September 2021

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has issued advice on the benefits of a third primary Covid-19 vaccine dose for individuals aged 12 years and over with severe immunosuppression around the time of their first or second vaccine doses.

The JCVI’s advice states that, until more data is available, any provision of a third primary dose to people who are immunosuppressed will draw on the assumption that “a third dose is unlikely to confer significant harms or disadvantages, but may offer the possibility of benefit”.

It said these uncertainties in harms and benefits will need to be communicated as part of informed consent, and expectations regarding the value of a third primary dose taken into account.

At the current time, the JCVI advises that a third primary dose should be offered to individuals aged 12 years and over with severe immunosuppression in proximity of their first or second Covid-19 vaccine doses in the primary schedule.

Severe immunosuppression at the time of vaccination is defined in the guidance and timings supplied in the statement document.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said he accepted the expert recommendations from the JCVI. The NHS will now contact people as soon as possible to discuss their needs and arrange an appointment for a third dose where clinically appropriate. This action is not the start of the booster programme, which is being planned to commence in September to ensure the protection people have built from vaccines is maintained over time and ahead of the winter.

Those most at risk to Covid-19 will be prioritised for boosters based on the final advice of the JCVI, including those who are eligible for a third primary vaccine.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam welcomed the JCVI’s advice to offer a third primary dose to those with severe immunosuppression, at a bespoke interval, advised by their specialist clinician, and guided by the UK’s immunisation handbook, the Green Book.

He added: “We should be doing all we reasonably can to ensure that this group is not disadvantaged and a third primary dose is one step in this direction. We are also working hard to ensure there are other medical interventions that can be used in these groups, including specific treatments like antivirals and monoclonal antibodies.”

The JCVI statement is available here.