The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said those people over the age of 16 and living in a house with an adult with a weakened immune system should be prioritised for their vaccine.
It is hoped the move will help to limit the spread to immunosuppressed adults – such as those with blood cancer, HIV or are having immunosuppressive treatment such as chemotherapy – who have a weaker immune system and are less able to fight infections naturally.
The JCVI has not made the same recommendation about family members of children who are immunosuppressed, or children under the age of 16 who live with immunosuppressed adults.
Why are they being prioritised?
People who are immunosuppressed are at high risk of Covid-19, and the JCVI said recent evidence suggests that they may not respond as well to the Covid-19 vaccine as others.
As a result, the JCVI said that adults who live with immunosuppressed adults should be prioritised for their jab alongside people who have underlying health conditions which put them at a higher risk of Covid-19.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 immunisation for the JCVI, said: “The vaccination programme has so far seen high vaccine uptake and very encouraging results on infection rates, hospitalisations and mortality.
“Yet we know that the vaccine isn’t as effective in those who are immunosuppressed. Our latest advice will help reduce the risk of infection in those who may not be able to fully benefit from being vaccinated themselves.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, added: ““By vaccinating those who live with adults who are immunosuppressed, we can further help protect vulnerable people.”
‘Not the only thing’ immunosuppressed people need
The NHS in England has been told to offer jabs to this group after the Government accepted the recommendation.
In a letter to Prof Lim, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am asking NHS England and Improvement to take this advice forward and prioritise household contacts of the severely immunosuppressed for vaccination as you recommend.
“My officials have also shared your advice with colleagues leading the Covid-19 vaccines programmes in each of the four nations of the UK.”
Commenting on the news, Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said the charity was “delighted” at the announcement, but said it was “not the only thing people with blood cancer need.
“Following initial evidence that at least one of the vaccines is not as effective in people with blood cancer and that they may benefit from getting a second dose more quickly, the JCVI needs to give doctors the power to decide when to give a second dose to their blood cancer patients”, she added.
“We hope the JCVI will be quicker in acting on this than they have been for prioritising household members, as every day that passes means more people are missing out on getting a second dose at the time their doctor thinks works best for them.”