Public Health

CDC group weighs third shot for immunocompromised people

A health worker prepares to administer a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at Khagendra Navajeevan Kendra, a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities, in Kathmandu.

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An advisory group at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering whether fully vaccinated Americans with compromised immune systems need a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccines after data shows they are less likely to have antibodies to fight the disease and are more likely to: a. suffer breakthrough infection.

Immunocompromised populations, such as those with cancer, HIV, or organ transplants, account for 44% of hospitalized breakthrough Covid cases, despite making up about 2.7% of the US adult population, according to a slide presentation released Thursday as CDC hit the Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices to discuss the need for booster vaccinations. The group also meets to discuss the safety profile of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

You will also get seriously ill with Covid more often, the agency said, and are at higher risk of spreading the virus to family and friends.

Studies suggest that a third dose of vaccine might help immunocompromised patients whose immune systems do not respond as well to a first or second dose. Four small studies cited by the CDC showed that between 16% and 80% of people with compromised immune systems had no detectable antibodies to Covid after two shots.

Among immunocompromised patients who had no detectable antibody response, 33 to 50% developed an antibody response after receiving an additional dose, according to the CDC.

“New data suggest that an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine in immunocompromised people increases the antibody response and increases the proportion of those who respond,” read a slide presented at the meeting.

The CDC meeting comes as federal officials say booster doses of the vaccines are not currently required for the general population.

The advisory board cannot recommend additional vaccinations to anyone until the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval of the Covid vaccines or changes the emergency approvals.

Other countries, such as France, are already giving third vaccinations to people with cancer or other impaired immune systems. The CDC group previously said that more at-risk Americans, such as the elderly or transplant recipients, may need an extra dose.

According to Dr. Dan Barouch, an immunologist at Harvard Medical School who helped develop the J&J vaccine, has urged some doctors in the US that the US allow an additional dose to immunocompromised populations.

“The most difficult ones to vaccinate are people with immunosuppression,” he said, adding that early data shows that a third vaccination could be safe and effective for these populations.

CNBC’s Rich Mendez and Robert Towey contributed to this article.

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