The Food and Drug Administration authorized an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose from Pfizer or Moderna for certain immunocompromised people on Thursday. The decision comes as the supercharged Delta variant fuels a resurgence in cases across the country. On Friday, the CDC officially approved the ACIP’s recommendation for a third dose, as well, meaning the third doses could be be available to immunocompromised Americans as soon as this weekend.
People with weakened immune systems — caused by disease, organ transplants, or medical treatments — make up just about 3 percent of the U.S. population, but they represent about 44 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 breakthrough cases, according to recent data from the CDC. Indeed, recent data suggests immunocompromised patients have a diminished immune response to COVID, even after two doses of the vaccine.
“The FDA is especially cognizant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease,” FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “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.” The agency stressed that the latest action “does not apply to people who are not immunocompromised” and that “fully vaccinated individuals do not need an additional vaccine dose right now.” (Prior to Thursday’s FDA authorization, more than 1 million Americans have reportedly taken it upon themselves to get an unauthorized third jab of a vaccine.)
This post has been updated.