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CDC Panel Recommends COVID Vaccine Booster Shots for Immunocompromised Americans

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C., May 11, 2021. (Greg Nash/Reuters)

A CDC advisory committee voted unanimously on Friday to recommend some immunocompromised Americans receive booster shots of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will now receive the recommendation and decide whether to issue final approval for the third dose. The CDC is expected to adopt the recommendation later on Friday, after which booster shots could begin being administered immediately.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decision comes one day after the Food and Drug Administration approved the booster shots for “solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.”

The agencies did not clear a third dose for other fully vaccinated individuals or for recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, which was developed under its Janssen vaccine division.

“Currently there are not data to support the use of an additional mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose after a primary Janssen Covid-19 vaccine in immunocompromised people. FDA and CDC are actively working to provide guidance on this issue,” the CDC’s Dr. Neela Goswami wrote in a presentation to ACIP.

The CDC, in a presentation to the panel, said people who should consider a booster shot include individuals undergoing treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood; organ transplant patients, including those who have gotten a stem cell transplant within the last two years, and those who have diseases that damage the immune system, according to the Washington Post. 

The agency also recommended a third shot for people with advanced or untreated HIV infection, those being treated with high-dose steroids and those who have chronic medical conditions that can weaken immune response, such as chronic kidney disease.

Roughly 2.7 percent of U.S. adults are immunocompromised, or about 7 million people, according to the CDC. However, immunocompromised people account for 44 percent of hospitalized breakthrough infections — infections that occur after an individual has been fully vaccinated.

According to the CDC, among immunosuppressed patients who had no detectable antibody response, 33 percent to 50 percent developed an antibody response after receiving a booster shot.

The agencies’ decisions come after WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month that booster shots should not be administered until at least the end of September because rich countries should not use more of the global vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, France, Israel, Hungary, Germany and the United Kingdom have all announced plans to administer booster shots.

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