July 19, 2021 -- The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee will consider an additional vaccine shot for immunocompromised people to protect them against COVID-19.

During a meeting on July 22, the group will discuss the clinical evidence for giving additional doses to those with weak immune systems.

A small percentage of U.S. adults — about 2% to 4% — are considered immunocompromised due to organ transplants, cancer treatments and diseases such as rheumatologic conditions, HIV and leukemia, the newspaper reported.

The conversation around additional COVID-19 shots picked up steam last week after Pfizer announced that it would seek approval to give a third “booster” vaccine to protect people from the contagious Delta variant.

Next week’s meeting won’t address Pfizer’s plan or FDA approval for broad booster shots for everyone, the newspaper reported. Instead, the advisory committee will consider whether it should update its clinical guidelines for immunocompromised patients who didn’t build enough of an antibody response to COVID-19 after the initial vaccine doses.

“I wouldn’t call that a booster,” Francis Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health, told the Washington Post.

“I would call that trying to get the primary immunization into the effective place,” he said.

Immunocompromised patients tend to have a lower response to vaccination. Based on a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which included organ transplant patients in France who received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, the antibody rate was about 4% after the first dose, 40% after the second dose, and 68% after the third dose.

For those who had no protection after the second dose, 44% developed an antibody response after the third dose. None of the 101 patients developed COVID-19 after receiving the three vaccine doses, and no serious adverse events were reported after the third dose.

“However, a large proportion of the patients remain at risk for COVID-19,” the study authors wrote. “Barrier measures should be maintained, and vaccination of the relatives of these patients should be encouraged.”

Israel announced this week that it will give third Pfizer doses to immunocompromised adults, The Washington Post reported. Britain has also announced a plan to begin booster shots in September, starting with immunosuppressed groups.

Public health officials have voiced mixed opinions about whether booster shots will be needed this fall for both immunocompromised people and the general population.

“A lot of that data is still emerging,” Helen Boucher, MD, an infectious diseases doctor at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, told the newspaper.

“Vaccinating as many people as we can, and as fast as we can, is how we’re going to stop this thing,” she said.


Show Sources

The Washington Post: “CDC advisers to consider additional coronavirus dose for immunocompromised patients.”

New England Journal of Medicine: “Three Doses of an mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine in Solid-Organ Transplant Recipients.”

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