The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has approved a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna – to individuals suffering from certain immunodeficiency diseases.

The ministry said that the approval is in line with the authorisation recently issued by the US Food and Drug Administration and the approval of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The third dose applies only to individuals with severe immunodeficiency and those who are particularly vulnerable to serious complications of COVID-19 infection.

The ministry explained that individuals from this group are more at risk of developing a serious and prolonged illness in the event of infection with COVID-19, because they may not obtain the same level of immunity after receiving two doses of the vaccine compared to people who do not suffer from immunodeficiency. The ministry noted that these patients will benefit from receiving an additional dose of the vaccine to ensure that they receive adequate protection against the COVID-19 virus.

Third dose, not a booster dose

The ministry stated that the third dose aims to improve the response of immunocompromised people to the initial series of COVID-19 vaccines they have received before, and it is not considered a booster dose like that given to individuals when it is likely that their immune response to the initial series of vaccines they received has weakened over time.

The ministry added that the decision to give the third dose to this specific group coincides with the current clinical evidence. They will decide on giving an additional dose to other groups when more evidence is available.

The  groups eligible to receive the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine are as follows:

  • Individuals who are currently receiving cancer treatments to treat tumours or leukaemias
  • Individuals who have had an organ transplant and are using drugs that suppress the immune system
  • Individuals who have had a stem cell transplant within the past two years, or are using immunosuppressive drugs
  • Individuals with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (eg DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Individuals with advanced or untreated human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
  • Individuals currently receiving treatment with high doses of corticosteroids or other medications that may suppress the immune response such as tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blockers, and other immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory biological agents
  • Individuals with chronic conditions such as asplenia and chronic kidney disease

Individuals who are eligible to receive the third dose will be contacted directly by the Primary Health Care Corporation or by a member of the specialised care team supervising their treatment at Hamad Medical Corporation, to set a date for receiving their third dose of the vaccine.

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