Giving a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines to adults with weakened immune systems -- the immunocompromised -- will be up for discussion during a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel meeting next week.
At the meeting scheduled for July 22, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will focus on the 2% to 4% of U.S. adults with weakened immune systems. These include organ transplant recipients, people receiving cancer treatments, and those living with rheumatologic conditions, HIV and leukemia, the Washington Post reported.
The director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health doesn't consider giving an additional dose of currently approved two-dose vaccines to immunocompromised people a "booster" shot.
"I wouldn't call that a booster," Francis Collins said, the Post reported. "I would call that trying to get the primary immunization into the effective place."
Advisory committee member Camille Kotton, a transplant-medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, expressed support for the idea.
"From my perspective as someone who takes care of immunocompromised people, including organ transplant recipients, who seem to have a diminished response to vaccination, and based on the data we have seen recently … it does seem like an additional dose of vaccine would be appropriate for this population. And as far as we can tell, it would be safe and likely to augment immunity," Kotton told the Post.
But not all experts agree.
"I haven't seen evidence that a booster would be indicated for anybody, including the immunocompromised," said Helen Boucher, an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
"A lot of that data is still emerging," Boucher told the Post.
Booster shots have become a hot topic since Pfizer-BioNTech said last week it would seek emergency use authorization for a third shot of its two-dose vaccine amid growing concerns about the highly transmissible Delta variant, but U.S. health officials have said a third dose is not widely needed, the Post reported.
Critics, including the World Health Organization, say drug companies like Pfizer should focus on getting desperately needed shots to billions of people in the developing world, not boosters for already-vaccinated people in wealthy countries.
Next week's CDC advisory panel meeting won't deal with Pfizer-BioNTech's request for regulatory approval of a third booster dose. It will focus on updating clinical considerations for coronavirus vaccines, something that doesn't require a panel vote.
This week, Israel said it would start giving a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to severely immunocompromised adults, and Britain plans to start giving booster shots in September, first to those with weakened immune systems, people older than 70 and front-line health care workers, the Post reported.
Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine and the immunocompromised at Johns Hopkins University.
SOURCE: Washington Post