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CDC advisers consider boosters for immune-compromised Americans

A healthcare worker administers a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to a woman at a pop-up vaccination site operated by SOMOS Community Care during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 29, 2021.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday will consider evidence suggesting that a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines could increase protection among people with compromised immune systems.

Data presented ahead of the meeting noted that people with compromised immune systems have a reduced antibody response following the recommended primary vaccination series compared with healthy individuals.

“Emerging data suggest that an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose in immunocompromised people enhances antibody response and increases the proportion who respond,” slides released ahead of the meeting showed.

The committee is not scheduled to vote on a recommendation for whether to administer additional doses. That could be decided at a later meeting.

In small studies, short-term side effects from a third dose of mRNA vaccines – such as those made by BioNTech/Pfizer Inc or Moderna Inc – were about the same as those seen with the first two doses, the CDC said in its presentation.

An estimated 2.7% of U.S. adults live with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC presentation, based on data from 2013. The group includes people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and people with organ transplants or autoimmune disease who take drugs to dampen their immune response.

Those individuals are at increased risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19.

Last week, Israel began administering third doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to immunocompromised people, including those who have had heart, lung, kidney or liver transplants and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Some experts believe the CDC is nearing a similar recommendation in the United States.

The CDC has warned individuals with weakened immune systems to take precautions even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The virus not only poses an extra health risk to the immunocompromised, but because it takes longer for these individuals to clear the virus, scientists believe infections could result in new variants as the virus continues to replicate unchecked, which some studies have shown.

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