Covid: What is the difference between third vaccines and booster vaccines?
In an effort to control the increase and reduce hospitalizations, the country has stepped up its booster vaccination program.
Frequently, the terms “third shot” and “recall shot” are used interchangeably – but there is actually a pretty clear difference between the two.
Metro.co.uk talked to some vaccine experts about the main differences.
What is the difference between third vaccines and booster vaccines against Covid?
While the booster vaccine is offered to all UK adults, the third vaccine will only be given to “immunocompromised individuals”.
This is the third vaccine because it is the same vaccine used in the first and second primary vaccines that all adults can receive.
Essentially, the third dose improves response rates and increases levels of protection against the virus in immunocompromised patients, while the booster helps maintain and extend the length of protection received from the initial vaccination schedule.
A spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) said Metro.co.uk that the third doses are given to those whose immune response is judged to be “insufficient”.
They explained, “Additional doses of a vaccine may be required as part of an extended primary series for target populations where the rate of immune response after the standard primary series is deemed insufficient.”
Graham Cooke, NIHR infectious disease research professor at Imperial College London, said Metro.co.uk: “The general population immediately obtains a good immune response.
“But there is a group of people who don’t get this right response to begin with, and therefore need an extra dose of the vaccine to get there.”
The third jab helps give these people the same level of immunity as other people with just two doses.
Professor Cooke explained that the third dose will likely be the same as the first two you received (for example, people who had Pfizer as the first and second dose will usually receive Pfizer as the third).
However, he did mention that in some cases that might not be possible – but evidence suggests that a mixed approach doesn’t hamper immunity.
Who is eligible for a third Covid vaccine?
A third dose of a primary vaccine against Covid-19 is offered to people aged 12 and over who had a weakened immune system during their first two doses.
According to the NHS website, this includes people who have had or have:
- Blood cancer (such as leukemia or lymphoma)
- A weakened immune system due to treatment (such as steroids, biological therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy)
- An organ or bone marrow transplant
- A condition that means you have a very high risk of getting infections
- A condition or treatment advised by your specialist makes you eligible for a third dose
Professor Cooke said Metro.co.uk that “the eligibility criteria are broadened”.
However, the government has yet to announce who might be added to this list.
Patrick Dobinson, who is eligible for the third dose of the vaccine, said Metro.co.uk that he was “surprised” by the offer of the third team, because its availability is not widely known.
Mr Dobinson explained: “I was surprised that I needed a third primary vaccine because both doses were less effective for people taking drugs like me.
“I had no idea until my rheumatologist told me during a check-up.
“I’m glad they let me know as I didn’t realize it was necessary before the recall.”
As mentioned by Dr Dobinson, it is important that the third dose be taken before the booster.
Suzanne Renwick, Head of Clinical Practice Services at Myeloma UK said: “The [third jab and booster jab]are not interchangeable. They are both necessary and must be offered to patients in the correct order. It’s all about the timing.
“We are already seeing patients being offered a booster instead of a third dose. This means they may not be on the list of those eligible for a later recall – which is absolutely crucial to maintaining their protection against Covid-19.
If you think you are eligible for the third dose but have not received an invitation to book, you should contact your GP as soon as possible.
Professor Cooke said Metro.co.uk: “With the arrival of Omicron, it is important to further strengthen your immunity. “
Does this mean that some people will get four shots in total?
Yes, people who received the third dose are also eligible for a booster vaccine.
They will then be asked to book a booster three months after receiving their third dose.
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