What to know as FDA approves third Covid vaccine doses for certain Americans

Larry Bergner Holding A Moderna Vaccine Vial

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved third doses of COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised Americans. 

“An additional dose could help increase protection for these individuals, which is especially important as the Delta variant spreads,” says Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC.

Roughly seven million Americans, around 3 percent of U.S. adults, will be able to get a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. They are approved only for those who have weakened immune systems. The FDA specifically mentions people who had solid organ transplants, but Newton County Health Department Director Larry Bergner can think of a few other conditions that should apply.

“Probably cancer, HIV, other diseases that leave people immunocompromised,” says Bergner.

According to the CDC, 40 to 44 percent of people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 after being vaccinated have weakened immune systems. The FDA says they will be able to get a third dose 28 days after they get a second dose. The agency recommends the third dose be from the same manufacturer as the second — but it’s not mandated. The agency did not mention additional doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“We’ve had questions from people who are at a level of immunocompromise asking about that third dose, and until now we’ve had to turn them away,” says Bergner.

Bergner expects additional guidance to come out next week that will go over the full requirements and full list of qualifying conditions. He says after that happens, getting the third dose should be pretty straightforward.

“What I envision is that if someone calls asking about that third dose, we’ll have them talk to their primary care physician, just to make sure that their physician is in agreement that they do meet that criteria,” explains Bergner. “And then we’ll be glad to give them that booster dose.”

But what about the rest of the population? U.S. health officials continue to say booster doses aren’t recommended for the majority of the population yet. The World Health Organization has also asked for a moratorium on booster doses, at least until the rest of the world can achieve a 10 percent vaccination rate. However, the CDC says roughly a million Americans have already received a third dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. It’s unclear if those people had compromised immune systems.

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