19 January 2021
This statement has been developed by the British Society for Immunology COVID-19 and Immunology Taskforce which is made up of experts on how the immune system works. This statement is aimed at people who either have a medical condition which means their immune system doesn’t function optimally or people who take medication that suppresses their immune system.
All three of the COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech; AstraZeneca/Oxford; Moderna) that have currently been approved for use in the UK are safe to use for people who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed. None of these approved COVID-19 vaccines contain any active SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are both mRNA vaccines which contain a small piece of genetic code from the SARS-CoV-2 virus to generate an immune response. The AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, which uses an inactive unrelated virus (the viral vector) which cannot replicate to deliver SARS-CoV-2 genetic material to generate an immune response.
While COVID-19 vaccination might provide a lower level of protection in people who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised compared with the rest of the population, it is still very important that you get vaccinated as it will offer you a certain amount of protection against catching COVID-19. It is important that you receive two doses of the vaccine to maximise the protection that vaccination offers you.
COVID-19 vaccination will work best if you have a functioning immune system. For people currently undergoing whole organ or stem cell transplant and who may be severely immunocompromised, you should talk to your medical treatment team about the most suitable time to get your COVID-19 vaccination.
It’s important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccines can protect you from getting seriously ill with COVID-19, although if your immune system isn’t functioning optimally this protection will not be complete. We don’t currently have any evidence that the vaccines can stop you passing on the virus to others even if you make a good immune response. This means that even after you have been vaccinated, it’s very important that you still follow social distancing guidelines and wash your hands regularly.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should talk to your medical team or GP in the first instance.
Further information for healthcare professionals
Chapter 14 of the Green book – this is the official guide for healthcare professionals who are giving COVID-19 vaccination
Advice on priority groups for vaccination – from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)
Further information for patients
You can find more information on COVID-19 vaccination for patients with specific conditions on the following medical charity sites.
- Alopecia UK
- Anthony Nolan
- Blood Cancer UK
- Cancer Research UK
- Crohn’s and Colitis UK
- Histiocyte Society
- Lupus UK
- Macmillan Cancer Support
- MS Society
- National AIDS Trust
- National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
- Primary Immunodeficiency UK
- Scleroderma & Raynaud's UK (SRUK)
- Versus Arthritis