Third Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine Recommended For Immunocompromised People

Aug 13, 2021, 8:00 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2023, 5:26 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — People with weakened immune systems will soon be eligible to get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to improve their protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made that recommendation Friday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized it the day before.

The third doses are for immunocompromised people: those who have had an organ transplant, or people on chemotherapy or other treatments for cancer, which suppress their immune system.

“For most of us, we just need two shots and our bodies are ready to go. They are going to fight off that virus,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen.

Unfortunately, she said that’s not the case for people who have some immune conditions, especially as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads.

“There are two good studies out there that have shown that people with certain immune conditions, if they get a third shot, it really helps their bodies get on top of things,” said Nolen.

According to the CDC, immunocompromised people make up about three percent of the population, but they represent more than 40 percent of hospitalized breakthrough cases.

“Immunocompromised people have a much higher rate of severe outcomes when they get sick with COVID, and they don’t necessarily respond as well to vaccination,” said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, director of preventive medicine at Intermountain Healthcare.

This would be an additional dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, given at least 28 days after their last dose.

It does not apply to the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which has been used far less than the others.

In the CDC meeting Friday, Sheffield said several people talked about the difference this extra dose might make for them.

“One individual who has incurable cancer, who wants to extend her life as long as possible, she wants that third dose so she can be close to family members, so that she can gather with people,” Sheffield said.

Officials with the Utah Department of Health said they have a large supply of the vaccine.

“We have over 300,000 doses of vaccine here ready to go,” said Nolen.

That’s enough to vaccinate all of those eligible individuals in our state with another dose, as soon as the director of the CDC signs off.

As for boosters for the rest of us?

“Right now, there’s not a recommendation that people with healthy immune systems go get another dose,” the state epidemiologist said. “So, we will keep our eyes open. We’re happy to know people are looking at this, and when we see evidence that we need to, we will be able to do that.”

Both doctors encouraged everybody who has not been vaccinated to get their shot. That’s the quickest way, they said, to protect more people in our communities.

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Third Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine Recommended For Immunocompromised People