The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially authorized Covid-19 vaccine booster shots for individuals with weaker immune systems late Thursday night, a move meant to provide protection against the highly contagious delta variant.
The FDA said organ transplant recipients and those who are immunocompromised can receive a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Additionally, the agency said individuals who are fully vaccinated are “adequately protected” and do not require a third shot.
“Today’s action allows doctors to boost immunity in certain immunocompromised individuals who need extra protection from COVID-19,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a meeting scheduled for Friday to discuss considerations of a third shot for immunocompromised Americans. If approved, the booster shots could begin rolling out immediately.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci made the media rounds on Thursday and said federal officials were working to make a third shot available to cancer and HIV patients or those who have had organ transplants.
“Immunocompromised individuals are vulnerable,” Fauci said. “It is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters, and we are now working on that, and we will make that be implemented as quickly as possible. … It is a very high priority.”
Immunocompromised individuals make up just 2.7% of the U.S. adult population but they also make up 44% of those currently hospitalized with Covid breakthrough cases.
Health experts say data shows a third vaccine shot might help those individuals whose immune systems don’t respond well to a first or second dose of the vaccine.
Speaking on CBS This Morning on Thursday, Fauci said it is “likely” everybody will eventually need to receive a booster shot but that is not the priority at the moment.
The move comes as other countries are giving out third shots to people who are suffering from cancer or have immune impairments. Meanwhile, in the United States, health experts are recommending waiting at least four weeks after full vaccination before receiving a booster.