Patients clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 should continue to shield even after being fully vaccinated against the virus, the Department of Health and Social Care has said.
Announcing the reintroduction of shielding on Monday, the Government had set a target for everybody in this cohort to be vaccinated by 15 February at the latest.
But the Government said the most vulnerable must continue to shield while it assesses the ‘impact’ of vaccinations.
Updated shielding guidance published yesterday said: ‘Even if you have had both doses of the vaccine, you should continue to follow this shielding advice until further notice as we continue to assess the impact of vaccination among all groups.’
And it added: ‘The people you live with should continue to follow the public health rules and guidance as long as they are in place, including if you have received the vaccine and also if they have received the vaccine.’
Meanwhile, the newly-published patient group direction for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has confirmed that immunosuppressed individuals – who feature on the shielding list – ‘may not make a full immune response to the vaccine’ – as with the Pfizer vaccine.
It said: ‘As with all vaccines, immunisation may not result in protection in all individuals. Immunosuppressed individuals should be advised that they may not make a full immune response to the vaccine.’
Phase three trials have begun for an alternative Covid vaccination made up of a cocktail of antibodies, which could be more suitable for the immunosuppressed.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee evidence session held yesterday revealed that the Government would consider adding women fewer than 28 weeks pregnant to the shielding list.
This follows a petition with almost 100,000 signatures calling for greater protection for pregnant women during the pandemic in light of the death of pregnant nurse Mary Agyapong from Luton.
DHSC director general for global and public health Clara Swinson told the House of Commons health and social care committee: ‘In terms of the definition of the clinically extremely vulnerable, obviously almost a year into this pandemic we know a lot more about that.
‘The deputy chief medical officer leads this work and will be looking both at the overall cohort of people but also at the individuals for a conversation of those who are most at risk, including pregnant women if that’s appropriate.’
Currently, only ‘women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired’ are included on the list.
Health secretary Matt Hancock added that it was ‘very much a clinical question’ and he would take advice from deputy CMO Dr Jenny Harries.