Agency gives final OK to administer Covid vaccine booster shots to vulnerable Americans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday gave final approval to give Covid-19 booster vaccinations to recipients of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, hours after a key panel unanimously voted to allow third doses for immunocompromised Americans advocate.

“At a time when the Delta variant is on the rise, an extra dose of vaccine for some people with compromised immune systems could help prevent serious and potentially life-threatening COVID-19 cases in this population,” said CDC Director Dr . Rochelle Walensky in a statement.

The CDC’s decision and recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices followed the approval of the booster vaccination for immunocompromised patients by the Food and Drug Administration late Thursday. With the OK from both authorities, the booster doses could be given immediately.

“For the past almost a year and a half, I have cared for many patients with life-threatening and fatal diseases, and even post-vaccination,” who are immunocompromised, Dr. Camille Nelson Kotton, a transplant and infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the panel to strongly support boosters for those with weak immune systems. “They just suffer from a lack of good vaccination protection, we know that the vaccine is less effective in this population.”

Close-up of the Moderna vaccine at the Park County Health Department’s COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic for Seniors 80 and older on January 28, 2021 in Livingston, Montana.

William Campbell | Getty Images

FDA approval approved third doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for “solid organ transplant recipients or those diagnosed with conditions believed to have equivalent levels of immunodeficiency.”

“New data suggests that some people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems do not always build the same level of immunity as people who are not immunocompromised,” said Walensky. “While immunocompromised people make up about 3% of the US adult population, they are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are at greater risk of developing serious, longer-lasting illnesses.”

Authorities have not released a booster vaccination to anyone else fully vaccinated or to recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which is manufactured in the Janssen vaccines division.

“There is currently no data to support the use of an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine following a Janssen Covid-19 primary vaccine in immunocompromised people. The FDA and CDC are actively working to provide guidance on this matter,” said Dr. Neela. from CDC Goswami wrote to ACIP in her presentation.

The CDC recommended a third dose for at-risk Americans 28 days or more after completing the first two rounds of shooting. Booster doses are also recommended for cancer patients and HIV patients after data showed that immune responses after the first two doses did not provide adequate protection against Covid-19 and its variants in these patients.

The additional recordings were recommended for Pfizer recipients aged 12 and over and for Moderna recipients aged 18 and over. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said it would re-examine vaccinations for younger Moderna recipients after the FDA clears vaccinations for children.

Immunocompromised patients make up approximately 2.7% of the US adult population and 44% of breakthrough hospital-treated infections that make someone infected even after being fully vaccinated.

Studies suggest that a third dose of the vaccine might help people whose immune systems do not respond as well to a first or second dose. Five small studies cited by the CDC showed that 11% to 80% of people with compromised immune systems had no detectable antibodies to Covid after two shots.

Among immunocompromised patients who had no detectable antibody response, 33 to 50% developed an antibody response after receiving an additional dose, according to the CDC.

Patients at risk are also more likely to experience persistent Covid infections, the panel said. The data also suggests that they are likely to shed more viruses and potentially infect more people than those who are not immunocompromised.

Early data from small studies on the effects of booster doses in immunocompromised patients showed no serious side effects from a third vaccination with an mRNA vaccine and symptoms beyond those identified after the first two-dose dose.

Several countries, including Israel, the Dominican Republic, France, the UK and Germany, have either already started or are considering giving booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

Immunocompromised patients receiving a third dose should continue to wear a mask and social distancing, the panel said.

Survey data from hesitant immunocompromised patients show that, according to a panel presentation by Dr. Kathleen Dooling of the CDC still has many worried about the side effects of the vaccines and the speed at which the vaccines have been developed, as well as the general suspicion about the vaccines.

Around 10% of immunocompromised patients say they will “definitely not” receive a vaccine, another 9% say they are “unsure” or “probably not” and 44% say they will “definitely” get a vaccine. Those who hesitate are usually younger, belong to an ethnic or racial minority, or are female.

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