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South Floridians eager for third dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Boynton Beach resident Joyce Fish speaks to WPTV journalist Ryan Hughes on Aug. 13, 2021.jpg
Posted at 3:47 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 16:16:35-04

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week authorized an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people with weakened immune systems to better protect them from the virus.

All around her house in Boynton Beach, Joyce Fish proudly displays pictures of her family.

"As you get older, it becomes even more important because you don't know how many years you have to stay with the young ones," Fish said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Fish was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which are cancerous plasma cells that weaken bones.

"It's not curable but it's treatable," Fish said.

The coronavirus kept her at home, fearing she wouldn't survive the virus.

Fish is fully vaccinated, and it wasn't until two months ago that was able to meet her great granddaughter for the first time in-person.

But now, with the delta variant fueling new infections, Fish met with her doctor Thursday and asked about a third booster shot.

"If you could get the booster tomorrow, would you?" asked WPTV journalist Ryan Hughes.

"Yeah, I would," Fish replied.

The FDA has authorized an additional COVID-19 dose for immunocompromised people, like Fish.

"We do know that almost 40%, looking at the data, of those breakthrough infections are people who are immune suppressed," said Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo, an infectious disease specialist.

Kiminyo said the current vaccines do protect against the current variants, but not as much for those with weakened immune systems.

"It offers better protection, it appears, to get that third shot for those special groups," Kiminyo said.

For Fish, she wants to be more protected so she can attend her grandson's wedding in October.

"At this point, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to keep me safe for myself, my family, my friends and for the world," Fish said.

Doctors said that if you're healthy with a strong immune system, you don't need a third shot right now. They say it's more important for those unvaccinated to reconsider.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 7 million U.S. adults are immunocompromised.

WPTV learned it's standard to exclude immunocompromised people from vaccine makers' COVID-19 clinical trials. So no one knew exactly how much (or little) of a response they would have until shots became available.

"The inclusion criteria did not allow immunocompromised people in it, if you were taking a medicine for psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease or recently had cancer or you were a transplant or you had HIV that wasn’t under control, or you were on high dose prednisone for skin rashes for a while, you could not be in the trial. So the people who were in the trial aren’t really mirroring the general public," said Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious disease specialist.

In July, the advisory committee on immunization practices said an additional shot was unlikely to cause harm and might be helpful to people who are immunocompromised.