Aug. 6, 2021 -- The U.S. government is working to make booster shots available for immunocompromised people “as quickly as possible,” Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, said Thursday.

Government health officials have said booster shots for the general population are not needed now, but the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant has created new dangers for people with compromised immune systems, such as those having chemotherapy, with HIV, or taking certain medications.

"It is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters, and we are now working on that and will make that be implemented as quickly as possible, because for us and for the individuals involved, it is a very high priority," Fauci said in a news briefing at the White House.

CDC data shows that immunocompromised people make up 2.7% of the U.S. population.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the FDA expects to have a strategy by early September on COVID-19 vaccine boosters, including decisions on which people should be prioritized.

The Biden administration is worried that certain groups could need a booster as soon as this month, such as people who are immunocompromised, people over 65, or those who got their vaccine during the early rollout in December and January, the Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with discussions within the agency.

At its last meeting, in late July, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also signaled its support for booster doses of COVID vaccines for U.S. adults who are immunocompromised.

The CDC pointed to new research showing that between one-third and one-half of immunocompromised people who didn’t develop detectable levels of antibodies after two doses of vaccine do develop antibodies after a third dose. Other studies showed that immunocompromised people who initially responded to two-vaccine doses also got an important boost of antibodies after a third dose, with only mild side effects.

The committee agreed that this emerging evidence supported a new round of shots in this vulnerable group but noted that the FDA would need to either amend its emergency authorization for the vaccines or grant them full approval before the committee could make any official recommendations for boosters.

Vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer have said they think booster shots would be a good idea.

Moderna said this week that neutralizing antibodies generated by its vaccine against three variants of the virus that causes the disease waned substantially 6 months after the second dose. Because of this, the company expects an increase in breakthrough infections with a need for boosters before winter.

Pfizer said in July that data from a booster study showed that antibody levels jumped by 5 to 10 times after a third dose, as compared with the second dose months before.

After meeting with Pfizer officials in July, the CDC and the FDA issued a joint statement that said those who have been fully vaccinated “do not need a booster shot at this time.”

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

The White House: “Press Briefing by White House COVID-⁠19 Response Team and Public Health Officials,” Aug. 5, 2021.

CDC: “Data and clinical considerations for additional doses in immunocompromised people.”

The Wall Street Journal: “FDA Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Plan Could Be Ready Within Weeks.”

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

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