UNDER 50-year-olds who live with vulnerable people could now be eligible to get their Covid vaccine.
The NHS has been told to offer the jabs to anyone who lives with an adult with a weakened immune system, regardless of their age.
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It includes people with blood cancer, HIV or having immunosuppressive treatment such as chemotherapy.
But it does not include those with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or liver disease.
It is hoped the move will limit the risk of someone bringing Covid into the home of someone who is high risk.
People with compromised immune systems are less able to fight the coronavirus.
Even though they should have already had the first dose of the vaccine, there is still a chance they can catch it and get severely ill, as no jab is 100 per cent effective.
On top of this, recent evidence suggests these people may not respond as well to the Covid-19 vaccine as others, according to the The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
As a result, the JCVI – which advises the Government on the vaccine rollout – updated its guidance to say those living with those with an underlying health condition should receive the jab.
Currently this does not appear on the NHS website for booking a coronavirus vaccine appointment, but could be changed imminently.
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, said scientists have found that the vaccine can limit spread of the virus, as well as severe disease and death.
Therefore, “by vaccinating those who live with adults who are immunosuppressed, we can further help protect vulnerable people”, she said.
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.”
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.
Who is eligble to get the Covid vaccine?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the government to prioritise people for the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine who are over 16 and living with adults who have weakened immune systems.
According to the list of priority groups for the vaccine, immunocompromised people include those:
- with HIV.
- with an organ, stem cell or bone marrow transplant.
- with a genetic disorder that impacts the immune system, such as sickle cell.
- with a blood or bone marrow cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
- with systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis who may require long term immunosuppressive treatments.
- being treated with steroids for more than a month at a dose equivalent to prednisolone at 20mg or more per day.
- on immunosuppressive drugs such as anti-TNF, alemtuzumab, ofatumumab, rituximab.
- having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors.
- receiving steroid sparing agents such as cyclophosphamide and mycophenolate mofetil.
The vaccine programme has now reached more than 30 million people to offer the first dose.
Priority groups one to nine are set to be reached within days, which includes anyone over the age of 50, healthcare workers, and those with a health condition of any age.
For the majority of the general population, a first dose of the jab is still several weeks away.
Those in their 40s are next in line as the programme goes through the age bands.
But a shortage in vaccine supplies over the month of April will delay the first dose rollout.
However, ministers claim the UK is still on track to give everybody their first dose offer by July.