COVID-19 booster shot for immunocompromised people: are there any additional risks?

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  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended administering COVID-19 booster shots to individuals having weak immune systems.
  • Before the CDC recommendation, the FDA had approved an additional dose for patients who are immunocompromised.
  • Individuals with a weakened immune system are vulnerable to COVID-19 as they are more at risk of severe and prolonged diseases.
  • The FDA’s amendment and the CDC’s recommendation to administer the third shot to immunocompromised people are applicable for mRNA-based vaccines only.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with vaccine developers Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE), BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:BNTX) and Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA) to allow certain vulnerable individuals to receive a third shot (booster) of their respective COVID-19 vaccines to strengthen their immune response.

The US has entered yet another COVID-19 wave, and the regulatory authority is concerned that immunocompromised individuals are especially at risk for severe disease. Keeping that in mind, on 12 August 2021, the FDA amended the emergency use authorization (EUA) for immunocompromised individuals.

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Besides, on 13 August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had also recommended that people with weak immune systems should get an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after the initial two doses. The US is the latest nation to start offering third COVID-19 shots to people with weaker immune systems.

People having weak immune systems who have already received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines can now get a third shot to boost their protection from infectious disease. The FDA’s recent change for the EUA and the CDC’s recommendation to administer an additional COVID-19 vaccine to immunocompromised individuals is applicable for mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines only.

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Following a detailed review of the available information related to the additional COVID-19 shots, the FDA had decided that vulnerable people may benefit from an additional dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Moreover, FDA advised that only a very small group of individuals with weakened immune systems will receive the third dose. People who have a weak immune system due to solid organ transplants have a lower ability to combat infections and other diseases and are especially vulnerable to infections, including COVID-19.

Risks associated with additional booster COVID-19 shot

The CDC mentioned that there is limited information related to the risks of getting an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Also, the safety, efficacy, as well as benefits of the additional vaccine shot in immunocompromised people is under evaluation.

So far, the reactions or side effects reported after the administration of the third mRNA vaccine have been similar to that of the administration of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The most common side effects include fatigue, pain at the site of injection, and most of the symptoms were mild to moderate. However, the CDC highlighted that as with the two-dose series, serious side effects are rare, but can occur.

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Bottom line

People with weaker immune systems are vulnerable to COVID-19 and the CDC has advised that they should get an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after the initial two doses. While there are risks associated with the third shot, CDC highlights that they are rare, similar to the two-dose series.

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