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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

Go deeper

Updated Nov 19, 2021 - Health

CDC recommends Pfizer, Moderna COVID boosters for all adults

Irene Michel, right, gives Santana Ruiz a COVID-19 vaccination in El Monte, California, on Nov. 17. Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday approved a CDC advisory panel's unanimous vote to recommend Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 booster shots for anyone 18 and older.

Why it matters: The move will drastically increase the number of people eligible to receive a booster, and fulfill President Biden's pledge to make boosters available to most adults in the U.S.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 19, 2021 - Health

We're still not taking the pandemic seriously

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

20 months after pandemic lockdowns first began in the U.S., government institutions and the public are still struggling to manage COVID-19 as the emergency it is.

Why it matters: Past crises, from the Great Depression to 9/11, led to lasting changes in American society and governance. But institutional inflexibility has left us at risk of further COVID waves and disruption and unprepared for the inevitable next pandemic.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker