UK booster vaccinations and primary third doses – The public are confused

UK booster vaccinations and primary third doses
UK booster vaccinations and primary third doses. The rollout has caused confusion.

Related post: COVID Boosters for Housebound People in Worthing

The BMJ logo

On 5 November The BMJ* published an article entitled How is the UK’s vaccine booster programme faring?

*BMJ, formerly called the British Medical Journal

The BMJ article about UK booster vaccinations and primary third doses

The articles highlight confusion among the public about the difference between booster vaccinations and third doses. There is an explanation about booster eligibility and why, in the BMJ’s opinion, the rollout of the booster programme has not been smooth and uptake by the population has been slow.

Also discussed in the article are the UK’s vaccines minister, the vaccines being used for booster shots, evidence on the effectiveness of boosters, future schedule for people who need four doses and the criteria of people eligible for a third primary dose.

Article Abstract

After a successful vaccination campaign for the first and second doses, the UK’s booster programme has stuttered. Gareth Iacobucci examines why.

Who is eligible for a booster vaccine?

The NHS website says that booster doses are available for people most at risk of serious illness from covid-19 (box 1) who had their second dose at least six months ago.1 This means around 30 million people across the UK. On 29 October the government updated its information for public health professionals on immunisation, the “Green Book,”2 to allow extra flexibility for certain groups of vulnerable people, such as care home residents or housebound patients, who can now be given booster doses a minimum of five months after their second dose where this makes “operational sense.”

Box 1

Who can have a covid-19 booster dose

  • All adults aged 50 or over
  • People living and working in care homes
  • Frontline health and social care workers (those involved in direct care, together with non-clinical staff in secondary, primary, and community health settings and laboratory and pathology staff)
  • Anyone aged 16-49 years with a health condition that puts them at high risk of becoming seriously ill from covid-19, and their adult carers. This includes people with chronic respiratory heart, kidney, liver, or neurological disease, diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression, asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen, obesity, and severe mental illness
  • Adults under 50 in long stay care settings
  • People aged 16 or over who live with immunosuppressed individuals

Has there been confusion over eligibility?

Yes. Some of this stems from the fact that booster doses and primary third doses,3 which are two separate vaccination programmes, were introduced at the same time, and some sources, including the NHS website, have been using the terms interchangeably. For example, the NHS booster vaccine site links to a list of “high risk” patients that it says are those eligible for a “booster.” Closer inspection shows this is a list of…

Read the full article on the BMJ’s website

Download a PDF version of the full article from the BMJ’s website


The abstract above has been re-published under the BMJ’s open access guidelines.

BMJ logo attribution (derivative work). Original: Provided by David Allen of The BMJ. He sent this permission under the ID 2016011810009711, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Further reading about booster vaccinations and primary third doses

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