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Just 46% of immunocompromised people have had booster jab

28th Mar 2022

We're calling for urgent action after new data revealed just 45.5% of immunocompromised people in England have had a booster dose of the Covid vaccine.

The data, published by NHS England, shows that 255,422 of the 561,356 immunocompromised people in England had a booster by March 24. This is despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announcing last November that immunocompromised people (the group the NHS calls “severely immunosuppressed) should have a booster dose three months after their third primary dose.

Our charity has warned that the weakened immune systems of immunocompromised people mean that they need more doses to get comparable levels of protection to the general population. The new data shows that many thousands of them have less protection that they should, at a time when the infection rate is extremely high.

And with Freedom of Information data showing that just 16% of immunocompromised people had had a booster by February 6, the slow rate of progress is likely to be a key reason there has been an increase in the proportion of people being admitted to intensive care who have blood cancer. As of the beginning of March, people with blood cancer were accounting for over one in 20 intensive care admission, compared to one in 36 admissions last autumn and one in 59 earlier in the pandemic.

We're calling on the Government and the NHS to act urgently to make sure every immunocompromised person who has not already had a booster is invited for one immediately.

As well as the low overall proportion of immunocompromised people who have had a booster, there has been a racial disparity in their roll-out. While the latest data does not break it down by ethnicity, as of February 6, 17% of immunocompromised people from a white British background had had a booster, while the proportion in other groups was:

  • 2% of immunocompromised people from a Bangladeshi background;
  • 3% of those from a Pakistani background;
  • 3% of those from a black African background;
  • 4% from a black Caribbean background;
  • 9% from an Indian background.

It is unknown how this racial disparity has changed since February 6.

This February data also shows that a high proportion of immunocompromised people from these communities had not even had their third primary dose by February 6, despite the fact that everyone was supposed to be offered this by the middle of last October. While 90% of people from a white British background had a third dose by this date, just 55% for people from a Pakistani background and 56% for people from a black Caribbean background had it by then. The gaps between take-up between racial groups for immunocompromised people are bigger than in the general population. Another 20,825 immunocompromised people have had a third dose since February 6, though it is unknown how this has affected the racial disparity.

Gemma Peters, Chief Executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “We welcome the fact that the proportion of immunocompromised people who have had a booster has increased significantly since early February. But given we are now three months into the roll-out of boosters for immunocompromised people, we are still very worried that over half of immunocompromised people have still not had a booster.

“It means that right now, at a time when the infection rate is incredibly high, many thousands of immunocompromised people do not have as much protection against Covid as they should. Sadly, some of these people are more likely to die as a result if they get Covid.

“As happens all too often, this is something that has disproportionately affected people from ethnic minorities. The fact that by two per cent of immunocompromised people from the Bangladeshi community had a booster by early February is appalling, and raises serious questions about what steps NHS England took to ensure the roll-out did not disadvantage people from particular ethnic groups.

“It is vital that NHS England focuses on making immunocompromised people aware when they need doses and ensures they are able to access them as quickly as possible. We are committed to doing everything we can to work with them to support this.”

Precious Jason, who lives with chronic myeloid leukaemia and is from the black African community, said: “All people with blood cancer were supposed to get their third dose by early October, but I did not get an invitation for it until November. It’s now been over three months since my third dose, and yet I have not heard anything from the NHS. I had assumed that this mean I was not eligible for it, and it is worrying to realise that I should have had it but have not. It is also disturbing to see that this is something that is disproportionately affecting people from my community and other ethnic minorities, and I worry that this will make the racial inequality that we’ve already seen during the pandemic even worse.”

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Covid vaccines and boosters for people with blood cancer

Find out how many covid vaccinations you should have, and how to get them.

How to book your next dose

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