Health

C.D.C. Panel Recommends Third Vaccine Dose for Immunocompromised

Dr. Jose U. Scher, a rheumatologist at NYU Langone Health who has studied the effect of vaccines on the immunocompromised, said that the C.D.C. vote — and the guidance from its experts — would help patients who had been agonizing over whether to seek out a third shot. Previously, he said, when people tested themselves for antibodies after vaccination and came up empty, “there were no tools for us to respond to that.”

“We now know that this population was being left behind,” he said.

Immunocompromised people will not need a doctor’s permission or a prescription to get a third shot, C.D.C. officials said. They will need only to attest that they meet the eligibility requirements for an additional dose. Anyone else, including people with chronic medical conditions, like diabetes or asthma, should not be getting third shots at this point, they said.

Dr. Scher predicted that this honor-system approach could be messy. “I don’t know if there’s any way of corroborating someone’s claim” of being immunocompromised, he said. Requiring some kind of proof, such as a doctor’s note, would be a better process, he said.

The updated F.D.A. authorizations do not apply to immunocompromised people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The C.D.C. panel did not offer recommendations on additional shots for that group, which is believed to be small. But the lack of guidance from either the F.D.A. or C.D.C. has left that group in limbo.

“We do understand the challenges here, and because of that we will continue to work very diligently to try to have a solution,” Dr. Peter Marks, the F.D.A.’s top vaccine regulator, said at the panel’s meeting. The F.D.A. is waiting on more data that it expects to receive this month, including Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trial data on the safety and efficacy of two doses.

Dr. Kathleen Dooling, a C.D.C. official, said that patients who qualify for a third dose should ideally seek out the vaccine they already received, but that they could take the other two-dose vaccine if necessary.

Presenting studies that supported giving third doses, Dr. Dooling emphasized that immunocompromised people who receive a third dose should still wear a mask, maintain social distancing with people they do not live with, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces. She said that people with weakened immune systems had also been shown to be at greater risk of breakthrough infection.


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