As a charity representing the 24,000 people in the UK with the incurable blood cancer myeloma, we are extremely concerned to see vulnerable patients being denied life-saving COVID-19 vaccines and missed off vaccination lists simply because doctors do not understand the difference between the third dose and a booster.
Patient reports show the terms ‘third dose’ and ‘booster’ are being used interchangeably by GPs and clinicians leading to uncertainty about which should be given first, if any at all.
On September 1, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation announced that people with severely weakened immune systems at the time of their first and/or second vaccination would receive a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the standard vaccination schedule. This third dose, the JCVI said, should be followed by a booster six months later.
While there is no difference in the ingredients of the vaccine and booster, it is key for medical staff to administer them in the correct order to make sure immunocompromised patients get as much protection from the virus as possible.
Since the JCVI’s announcement, the Myeloma UK Infoline has been inundated with queries from concerned patients who have received conflicting information from their GPs or been told they only need a booster.
In theory, the decision of who is eligible for a third dose of the vaccine and when they should receive it is ultimately up to patients’ clinical specialist team in hospitals. Clinicians should then contact patients’ GPs and advise them on who should be offered a third ‘top-up’ dose. However, in practice, the decision falls to GPs and vaccination centres.
To support patients with myeloma and other related conditions gain access to a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, we have put together a letter available to download from our website (www.myeloma.org.uk/documents/third-covid-19-vaccine-dose-letter/), which we encourage them to share with their GP and haematologist.
Patients should not be made to wade through red tape to convince doctors they’re eligible for a third vaccine. The Government must ensure that NHS systems can swiftly and accurately identify patients to make sure they are given the protection they need.
Laura Kerby, Myeloma UK Chief Executive