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Why people with blood cancer are invited for a 5th vaccine dose (second booster/Spring booster)

16th Mar 2022

After having three primary doses of the covid vaccine and one booster, people with blood cancer are now being offered another booster (a 5th dose - the Spring booster). Here's why, and when to have it.

Page updated 21 March 2022

If you're aged 12 or over and have blood cancer or immunosuppression, you can have a second covid booster (Spring booster), 3 months after your first booster (fourth dose). For many people with blood cancer, this will be their fifth covid vaccine dose overall. Anyone aged 75 and over is also offered a Spring booster.

We know that it can be confusing trying to work out how many vaccines you are entitled to but the most important thing to know is that people with blood cancer, no matter how many vaccine doses they've had, are now entitled for an additional vaccine three months after their last dose.

It’s likely that the JCVI will recommend a booster programme for all vulnerable and older adults in the UK in Autumn 2022, but they have recommended that people with blood cancer or immunosuppression receive an additional vaccine before this, to give them the best chance of having a good level of protection from the virus. You can see the government’s information about this booster campaign here.

Why have a 5th dose?

Part of the reason for recommending a fifth dose is because protection that a vaccine provides only lasts a certain amount of time, and it’s thought it might decrease more quickly in people who are immunocompromised. We also know that people with blood cancer don’t tend to produce as many antibodies after vaccination as people without blood cancer, and so because they start with a lower level of antibodies, it’s likely they will not be protected for as long as someone without blood cancer.

We’ve seen from research studies that the number of people with blood cancer who have an antibody response to a covid vaccine increases the more doses they have, so we’d hope an additional dose would mean even more people in our community are protected.

When should you have the 5th dose?

If it’s been at least 3 months since your last dose, you can have your second booster (5th dose). You will be offered either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

General guidance for people eligible for a second booster is to have it "around 6 months" after their last dose. But some people with blood cancer only had their first booster quite recently. In this case, it’s recommended that you still have your second booster as part of the Spring campaign, as long as it’s been at least 3 months since your last dose.

As long as it's been 3 months since your first booster, it's best to have your second booster as soon as you are able to. This aims to boost your immunity now, while infections are increasing and ahead of a possible summer wave. Waiting longer to have your second booster puts you more at risk of catching covid between now and then.

If you need help explaining this to anyone who says you must wait a full 6 months from your first booster, the Green Book (the government's main guidance for vaccinations for the UK) states (on page 28) "Immunosuppressed individuals... may have received the booster (fourth) dose more recently. These latter individuals and other eligible people who received their last vaccine more recently should also be offered the booster during the spring campaign providing there is at least three months from the previous dose. This will ensure they have additional protection against a potential summer wave."

We'll continue to update our information as soon as we know more about this. If you have any questions or need support in the meantime, contact us.

If you still haven’t had your first booster (4th dose) by March 2022, you can have this as part of the Spring campaign instead. You’ll then have your 5th dose in Autumn.

How to book your 5th dose

The roll-out of Spring boosters is expected to start around the end of March/early April.

In England, you can book your 5th dose (second booster) online.

In Scotland, the NHS will contact you to arrange your appointment.

In Wales, your Health Board GP will contact you to arrange your appointment.

In Northern Ireland, further details about how to book are expected soon.

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