The rollout of third doses of Covid vaccines for vulnerable people with weak immune systems has gone “badly wrong”, say charities.
On September 1, vaccine experts recommended that immunocompromised patients be given an additional dose to provide them with full protection.
However, according to Kidney Care UK and Blood Cancer UK, many people are still waiting.
According to NHS England, eligible patients should receive the third dose by the end of next week.
Immunocompromised people – approximately 500,000 in the UK – are unlikely to mount a strong defence against Covid-19, even after two doses of vaccine, according to research.
- Covid jab response low for some immunosuppressed people
- Third Covid jab advised for most vulnerable 1%
Individuals undergoing chemotherapy, HIV patients, or those who have received an organ transplant, according to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, should receive a third dose as soon as possible.
NHS England issued guidance to doctors on September 2nd, stating that the third dose should be given at least eight weeks after the second jab, and at a time when the patient is not receiving treatment that may make the vaccine less likely to work.
GP practises were instructed to identify eligible patients and contact them by September 13th.
Despite the rollout of a separate booster programme for the over-50s and at-risk groups, people have taken to social media to express their frustration at not being able to get a jab.
Steve Harrison of Lincolnshire received a kidney transplant in December 2020 and is eligible for a third. He believes that the most vulnerable have been overlooked.
“Organizing the third vaccine has been a nightmare,” he said. Neither my consultant nor my primary care physician were aware of it.
“I’ve spent days speaking with doctors, consultants, and the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), and I’m still no closer to getting my vaccine scheduled.”
“The shielding is coming to an end, the restrictions are being lifted, the world is returning to normal and moving forward, but I feel like I’m moving backwards.”
Both Kidney Care UK and Blood Cancer UK have expressed concern about the large number of calls and emails they have received about the issue in recent weeks.
Kidney Care UK has given NHS England the names of more than 80 GP practises that it claims are not currently assisting people with a third dose.
“This lack of clarity is causing a huge amount of stress, anxiety, and frustration among thousands of kidney patients,” said Fiona Loud, its policy director.
“With no specific national advice or support, this group is returning to work and public places.”
“They feel completely let down, and many have told us that this is the most worried and anxious they have ever felt during the pandemic.”
On September 30, NHS England issued new guidance to hospital trusts, instructing them to take immediate action to contact all those eligible for their third dose by October 11.
These will be counted as “booster” shots until the national system is updated to recognise third “primary” doses. This ensures that immunocompromised patients are contacted again in six months for their fourth booster dose.
“While a decision on when to get a third jab remains a decision between a patient and their clinician who are aware of their ongoing care and treatment,” an NHS spokesperson said, “all hospitals have been asked to identify and offer a jab to those who are eligible by the end of next week.”
“Where vaccines cannot be administered at the same time, patients and their doctors will be notified shortly so that they can schedule their vaccination at their local practise or vaccine centre.”