The nation’s top infectious disease expert says the Biden administration is working to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots approved for immunocompromised Americans.
Several public health experts have said that there is currently no evidence to suggest people who have completed their vaccine series need extra doses.
But, during a press briefing on Thursday, Dr Anthony Fauci said that people with weakened immune systems are ‘vulnerable’ to COVID-19 infection.
They ‘do not make, in general, an adequate response [to the COVID-19 vaccine] that we feel would be adequately protective,’ he said.
‘It is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters, and we are now working on that and will make that be implemented as quickly as possible, because for us and, for the individuals involved, it is a very high priority.’
It comes as sources tell The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects to have a plan on who should get booster shots and when by September.
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Dr Anthony Fauci said on Thursday (above) that the Biden administration is working on getting COVID-19 vaccine booster shots approved for immunocompromised people
Past studies have found that, even after being fully vaccinated, people with weakened immune systems have low or undetectable antibody levels. Pictured: Francisco Arechiga gets a COVID-19 vaccine in Arleta, California, August 2021
As many as three percent of all Americans are considered immunocompromised due to cancer treatment, autoimmune diseases, HIV or other ailments.
In the past few months, several studies have suggested that people with weakened immune systems don’t have as much protection after being fully vaccinated as healthy people.
A study in May found that all cancer patients developed fewer antibodies after being vaccinated compared to healthy participants and 10 percent barely developed antibodies at all.
Another study in June looked at 30 organ transplant recipients and found that 24 developed negative antibody levels – meaning they did not have any immune-fighting cells – after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
The findings are worrying because immunocompromised people are already at an increased risk of hospitalization or death from the virus.
This makes COVID-19 immunity even more crucial for this population.
However, third doses may be a way to boost antibody levels.
For example, the study about organ transplant patients found that one-third of patients with negative antibody levels from the first two doses now showed an increase after a third dose.
The biggest increase seen were antibody levels that rose 687-fold.
Last month, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said the agency is working to make additional doses available for immunocompromised people.
‘I think what you’re asking about is, you know, is there a way to offer a third dose to individuals…through a study, or through an investigational new drug format for this population?’ Amanda Cohn, the CDC’s chief medical officer for vaccine policy, told the panel.
‘I will just say that we are actively looking into ways that could be done to potentially provide access earlier than any potential change in regulatory decisions.’
The advisory committee cannot recommend boosters until the FDA gives the vaccines full approval or extends emergency use authorization to allow three doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to be administered or two doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have been conducting clinical trials of booster shots, with hopes they will be authorized by the fall.
Additionally, several countries, including Costa Rica, Israel, France and Germany have begun administering them to certain populations.
The U.S. may soon join these countries. Sources tell The Journal the FDA is hoping to publish guidelines on when boosters doses should be administered and to whom by next month.
According to two people familiar with the matter, the Biden administration hopes to include over-65s, immunocompromised people and those who received the shot in the early stages of the rollout including December 2020 and January 2021.
This is despite the World Health Organization calling for moratorium on booster shots on Wednesday until the end of September so all countries can vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations.