WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Although the Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third shot of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for the immunocompromised, there's still one last hurdle before doctors can begin giving patients an extra dose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still must give the final recommendation, a move that is expected to happen Friday afternoon.
If approved, transplant recipients, cancer patients and those who are on medications that suppress immune systems would be eligible for the third shot.
The CDC estimates there are nearly 3% percent of adults who fall into these categories.
South Florida infectious disease Dr. Larry Bush said recent studies have showed months after immunocompromised populations received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, most of them ended up not producing enough antibodies to offer the same level of protection as those with normal immune systems.
"What we're finding out is there is a large portion of them who don't respond at all," Bush explained. "And there's others who respond less potently than the normal host and a normal human being. So that's information we've gained, and what we've also learn that when you give them a third vaccine, their immune system responds better, and it protects them, just like it would a person who had a normal immune system."
Bush also said the potential change isn't a unique situation nor does it mean the vaccine is not effective.
"The Hepatitis B vaccine, the dose that's given to people with weakened immune systems like dialysis patients is greater than a normal person," Bush said. "The same thing for the influenza vaccine. There's a high dose vaccine for people over 65, because they have less of an immune response. So this is good news. It doesn't mean that we were wrong. It just means that we're learning more. Look, we get boosters for tetanus every 10 years. We've learned that a booster for pertussis whooping cough is necessary. So it's not a unique situation."
Bush went on to recommend that if someone is taking medication and is unsure how it's impacting a person's immune system, now is a great time to talk to a doctor to see if that person is a candidate for the third shot.