A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that has been recommended for severely immunocompromised individuals aged 12 and older is now available to be accessed, says National Director COVID-19 Vaccination and Immunisation Programme Jo Gibbs.
“Individuals who are severely immunocompromised are at a higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 and might not produce a sufficiently strong immune response after two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. A third primary dose may be beneficial and can be administered at least eight weeks after the second dose,” says Ms Gibbs.
“The eligibility criteria to access a third primary dose is complex and applies to only the group of people who are severely immunocompromised.
“Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria will need to be prescribed a third dose by their GP or other specialist and present the script when accessing the third primary dose.”
Ms Gibbs says the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group (CV-TAG) carefully considered a number of studies in order to make this recommendation for this group. The Ministry of Health has published the eligibility requirements that must be met to qualify for a third primary dose.
“Providing an optional third primary dose to individuals with severe immunosuppression will help protect our most vulnerable against severe disease and hospitalisation if they were to contract COVID-19.
“Everyone aged 12 and older who is a household or close contact of someone who is immunocompromised is strongly encouraged to receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. This will help provide indirect protection to the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
A third primary dose is different to a booster dose for the general population. Booster vaccines for the general population are not yet available under the current immunisation programme.
“The COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group (CV-TAG) is constantly reviewing the emerging research on booster vaccines, and a recommendation on whether a booster should be offered will be made in the coming months. Cabinet will make a final decision on whether the general public will be able to access a booster vaccine, following Medsafe’s assessment once it receives additional data from Pfizer,” says Ms Gibbs.