Aug 11, 2021 - Health

FDA set to authorize third COVID vaccine dose for immunocompromised people

A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine syringe

A health care worker fills a syringe with Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination event in Los Angeles. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration will update its emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines as early as Thursday to allow immunocompromised people to get a third dose, a source familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: Data suggest that people with weakened immune systems don't generate strong enough levels of protection against the virus with just two doses, but a third dose could significantly help.

The big picture: Scientists have debated who should receive booster shots and when, as the highly contagious Delta variant drives up the number of new cases across the country.

  • About 2.7% of U.S. adults are immunocompromised, a group that encompasses people that are undergoing cancer treatment, living with HIV, or are organ transplant recipients, among others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • More than 1 million people in the U.S. have received unauthorized booster shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines according to an internal CDC briefing document obtained by ABC News.

State of play: In July, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged action on additional doses for immunocompromised people, per NBC News.

  • In July, Israel became the first country to offer booster shots for immunocompromised people and seniors.
  • Germany and the U.K. have also announced they plan to offer boosters starting September.
  • Yes, but: The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on booster shots through at least September to allow for poorer countries to have access to doses.

What to watch: The ACIP will meet Friday to make recommendations on booster shots of the immunocompromised.

Go deeper: The CDC's booster messaging mess

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