The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday it is authorizing a COVID-19 booster shot to be given to immunocompromised Americans.
The authorization is for a third shot of the mRNA vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer, which as of now require two doses to fully vaccinate the recipient. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the booster Friday after the committee met to discuss the topic.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have lobbied for a third dose to be approved as evidence has mounted that some vulnerable individuals are still susceptible to infection and serious illness from the Delta variant despite being fully vaccinated. A majority of breakthrough deaths tracked thus far by the CDC have been of immunocompromised Americans or those with some other serious comorbidity.
Clinical data has shown that a booster shot can provide a strong boost in protection to the unhealthy and elderly. Additionally, Pfizer has warned that its vaccine efficacy drops to around 84% after six months, meaning a booster may be necessary to regain the protection offered by the first round of shots. (RELATED: Fox News Poll: Americans Support Vaccine Mandates And Passports)
Around nine million Americans are immunocompromised, according to the CDC. A recent Johns Hopkins study found that immunocompromised people are 485 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the healthy population, even when both groups are vaccinated, according to CNN.
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Israel recently became the first country in the world to begin giving booster doses to its vulnerable population. The World Health Organization has pushed back on rich countries potentially offering a third dose to its own people, arguing instead that available doses should be distributed to the developing world where vaccine availability is scarce.
Despite the lessened efficacy of the vaccines for vulnerable individuals against the highly-contagious Delta variant, breakthrough cases and deaths are still exceptionally rare. According to the CDC’s most recent data, only 5,285 vaccinated Americans have died of COVID-19 out of more than 164 million people vaccinated.