COVID-19 vaccine: Severely immunocompromised people

Information for severely immunocompromised people, including how to access a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last updated: 26 November 2021

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Getting vaccinated

If you’re severely immunocompromised, you have a higher risk of getting serious infection if you’re exposed to COVID-19.

You can be severely immunocompromised by having a medical condition causing immunodeficiency, or through medicines used to treat a range of conditions. While you may not respond as strongly as someone with a fully functioning immune system, getting vaccinated can protect you from becoming very unwell if you get COVID-19.

The best time to be vaccinated is before any planned immunosuppression, but this is not always possible so do not delay treatment.

If you’re severely immunocompromised, discuss the timing of your vaccination with your doctor or specialist. While the vaccine can be given at any stage of treatment, you may be able to time your vaccination appointments between rounds of treatment to optimise your immune response.

To help protect yourself, encourage your family and the people you live with to also get vaccinated.

Third primary dose for severely immunocompromised people

Individuals who are severely immunocompromised might not produce a sufficiently strong immune response after two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. A third primary dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is optional but recommended for people aged 12 and over who are severely immunocompromised.

The third primary dose should be given at least 8 weeks after the second dose but can be given from 4 weeks after the second dose after consideration of current or planned immunosuppressive therapies.

A third primary dose is different to a booster dose for the general population, which is offered at least 6 months after the usual two-dose primary course.

The eligibility criteria for those who should be offered a third primary dose is complex and applies only to people who are severely immunocompromised. Such decisions should be made in consultation with your doctor or specialist.

View the eligibility criteria on page 5 (PDF, 276 KB)

Your health practitioner can use the criteria to review whether your health conditions mean that you are recommended to have this third primary dose. If you think you might qualify, speak with your GP or specialist.

How to access a third primary dose

A prescription and consent form must be provided before people who are severely immunocompromised can access a third primary dose. The third primary dose is considered off-label use, so in accordance with Section 25 of The Medicines Act can be obtained only with a prescription and a signed consent form before it is given.

If you think you qualify, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your usual health care provider.

You might be able to receive the third primary dose at the same time as your consultation – check with your medical practitioner to see if they offer the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

If your prescribing clinician doesn’t offer Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination, you can take the script and consent form to any vaccination clinic, including a vaccinating pharmacy.

Appointments for a third primary dose are free.

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