NHS opens fourth dose bookings for immunosuppressed people

NHS fourth dose, fourth dose COVID
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The NHS has opened bookings for a fourth vaccine dose, to 400,000 severely immunosuppressed people across the country

People will be able to make bookings immediately, if they are recognised as severely immunosuppressed.

In the UK, third doses of the COVID vaccine are widely available. Only mRNA vaccines, like Pfizer and Moderna, are currently in use. This is because they have a more adaptable technology, making them stronger against newer variants – such as Delta, and the UK-dominant Omicron. 

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “It is incredibly important that those who are most at risk from coronavirus continue to come forward for their doses whether it’s a fourth dose or booster vaccine when their treatment allows and it is fantastic to see that more than nine in 10 people who are severely immunosuppressed have had their third dose so far.”

Does Pfizer work against the new variants?

Data suggests that three doses of Pfizer are strong enough to protect from hospitalisation or death, via the Omicron variant. People who have severely compromised immune systems are the exception to this general rule, as they need extra protection. The mRNA vaccines are still able to recognise the newly mutated Omicron variant – just not as well as they recognised previous variants, leaving some uncertainty of protection for the most vulnerable people.

Pfizer also can temporarily change menstrual cycles, if doses are given close together. Recent research suggests that this changed timeframe corrects itself, and there is no impact on fertility.

How many people are immunosuppressed?

There are an estimated 400,000 severely immunosuppressed people who will now be allowed to book their fourth dose. The final decision for when to get a fourth dose will lie between patients and their clinicians.

Most fourth doses of vaccine will be distributed via hospitals and GPs, who have previously reached out to patients to inform them of their status as severely at-risk. Usually, these are people who are having cancer treatment or face other long-term chronic illnesses. These same people will now be able to book online for a fourth dose and access walk-ins across the UK.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our vaccines are the best line of defence against this virus and it is vital those who are most at risk get their third and fourth doses when eligible, to ensure they have as much protection as possible.”


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