The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Aug. 13 officially endorsed the use of additional COVID-19 vaccine shots for individuals who have impaired immune systems.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed the recommendation offered by the agency’s vaccine advisory panel.
“At a time when the Delta variant is surging, an additional vaccine dose for some people with weakened immune systems could help prevent serious and possibly life-threatening COVID-19 cases within this population,” Walensky said in a statement.
The panel earlier that day voted 11–0 for additional COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for people with weak immune systems.
The decision applies only to those who have received two doses of the messenger RNA-based vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer, and not the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Immunocompromised people—including individuals who are solid organ transplant recipients, those with advanced HIV infections, those with certain chronic medical conditions like asplenia and chronic renal disease, certain cancer patients, and others—will not need a doctor’s note, prescription, or proof of their condition to receive the third shot, according to a presentation made to the panel.
“We are not recommending that either prescriptions or a physician sign-off be necessary for individuals to receive an additional dose of mRNA if they’re immunocompromised,” Dr. Kathleen Dooling, a member of the CDC advisory panel, said during the meeting.
The immunocompromised are estimated to make up about 2.7 percent of all U.S. adults, according to federal data.
The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices meeting came hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided emergency use authorization for third shots of the mRNA vaccines for organ transplant recipients and others with compromised immune systems.
The CDC’s advisory committee typically makes recommendations in lockstep with the FDA, and Aug. 13 was no exception.
In remarks made to the committee following the vote, Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University and member of the panel, noted that the CDC didn’t refer to the third shot for immunocompromised people as a “booster shot.”
“We’re looking at a very specific population in the U.S. that was not able to mount a normal immune response to the two doses,” Talbot stated. “This is a very specific population, and it’s not meant for the entire U.S. population.”
Early studies, according to a presentation from Dooling, indicate that of the people who had no detectable antibody response to the two mRNA shots, between 33 percent and 50 percent developed an antibody response to a third dose.
“No patients developed critical side effects which required hospitalization,” the presentation reads. “Symptoms reported were consistent with previous doses and the intensity of the symptoms was mostly mild or moderate.”
Experts are recommending that booster shots not be administered until at least 28 days after the second shot of the initial series, according to another CDC presentation (pdf). They are also recommending that individuals who received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine get the same brand of shot.
According to the CDC, the current vaccine supply in the United States is sufficient to make additional doses available.
The decision appears to be at odds with a plea from the World Health Organization (WHO), which last week called for a moratorium on COVID-19 booster doses to provide vaccines for poorer nations.
“WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September to enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated. To make that happen, we need everyone’s cooperation, especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference.
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki later described the WHO’s position as a “false choice,” arguing that third doses in the United States can be provided at the same time that the county is donating shots abroad.
France, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Germany have already or are planning to greenlight third doses of some COVID-19 vaccines for certain people with compromised immune systems, amid waning vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant of the CCP virus.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla wrote on Twitter earlier on Aug. 13 that emergency use authorization for third doses “will help increase protection for this population.”
The Epoch Times has reached out to Moderna and Pfizer for comment.