THIRD Covid jags will be offered in the UK to anyone with a severely weakened immune systems – but no decision has yet been taken on winter boosters or vaccinations for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds.
They should be offered either Pfizer or Moderna, regardless of previous doses, as “a number of studies have reported an increased immune response in some immunosuppressed people after a third dose of an mRNA vaccine”.
The expert panel is still deliberating on the potential benefits of booster vaccines for the rest of the population amid some evidence that immunity may wane after four to five months.
A number of other countries, including Israel, have already began administering boosters to over-60s with signs that doing so has curbed hospital admissions in this age group.
The JCVI said it is also still considering the evidence for extending immunisation to all 12 to 15-year-olds, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying today that she was hopeful of “a positive recommendation very soon”, adding: “We stand ready to implement that if it is the case”.
Outlining the reasons for its updated guidance, the JCVI said people who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second dose of vaccine my not have been able to mount a full response to vaccination, meaning they could be less protected than the wider population.
They are also more likely to become severely ill if infected.
Previous analysis found that even after two vaccine doses, in around 40 per cent of immuno-suppressed people antibody levels “were low”, said the JCVI.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 Immunisation for the JCVI, said: “We want people with severely suppressed immune systems to have the best chance of gaining protection from Covid-19 via vaccination.”
It comes as the latest data for Scotland shows that unvaccinated people are being admitted to hospital at twice the rate of those who have had both vaccine doses.
In the week to August 27, there were 261 Covid hospital admissions among people were were fully vaccinated, compared to 153 for unvaccinated people.
However, once the relative sizes of the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations are taken into account, the risk of hospitalisation currently stands 15 per 100,000 among unvaccinated people compared to eight per 100,000 in the fully vaccinated.
It comes amid a four-fold surge in virus cases in Scotland since most restrictions were lifted, climbing from 8,395 in the week leading up to ‘Beyond Zero’ on August 9 to nearly 41,000 over the past seven days.
The number of people in hospital with Covid has also doubled in the past 11 days, from 312 to 629.
The PHS report also shows that adults over-40 have been making up a growing share of Covid infections in Scotland, rising from about 25% of cases in early July to one in three by the end of August.
By the week ending August 24, 43% of people admitted to hospital with Covid were over 60.