FDA authorizes booster shot for immunocompromised Americans


The FDA has authorized a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people with compromised immune systems.

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The decision, which came late on Aug. 12, was not unexpected and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel meeting Aug. 13 is expected to approve directions to doctors and health care providers on who should receive the booster shot.

“The country has entered yet another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FDA is especially cognizant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease. After a thorough review of the available data, the FDA determined that this small, vulnerable group may benefit from a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Vaccines,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, said in a statement.

Those eligible for a third dose include solid organ transplant recipients, those undergoing cancer treatments, and people with autoimmune diseases that suppress their immune systems.

Meanwhile, White House officials said Aug. 12 they “have supply and are prepared” to give all U.S. residents COVID-19 boosters -- which, as of now, are likely to be authorized first only for immunocompromised people.

“We believe sooner or later you will need a booster,” Anthony Fauci, MD, said at a news briefing Aug. 12. “Right now, we are evaluating this on a day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month basis.”

He added: “Right at this moment, apart from the immunocompromised -- elderly or not elderly -- people do not need a booster.” But, he said, “We’re preparing for the eventuality of doing that.”

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said officials “have supply and are prepared” to at some point provide widespread access to boosters.

The immunocompromised population is very small -- less than 3% of adults, said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 rates continue to rise. Dr. Walensky reported that the 7-day average of daily cases is 132,384 -- an increase of 24% from the previous week. Average daily hospitalizations are up 31%, at 9,700, and deaths are up to 452 -- an increase of 22%.

In the past week, Florida has had more COVID-19 cases than the 30 states with the lowest case rates combined, Mr. Zients said. Florida and Texas alone have accounted for nearly 40% of new hospitalizations across the country.

A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.

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