1:43 PM PDT, August 17, 2021
Certain immunocompromised people can now get an extra dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval comes as many states across America sees surges of positive cases and hospitalizations as the Delta variant continues to spread.
“The country has entered yet another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FDA is especially cognizant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. said in a statement. “Today’s action allows doctors to boost immunity in certain immunocompromised individuals who need extra protection from COVID-19.”
Inside Edition Digital spoke to Dr. Robert G. Lahita, Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health, also known as Dr. Bob, about the latest decision.
“These people will benefit from the booster shot with these variants popping up in increased frequency,” Lahita said.
Here’s what we know so far.
Who’s Eligible for the COVID-19 Booster Shot?
Anyone who has received a solid organ transplant may get a third shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, according to a statement by the FDA.
Additionally, those who have a similar level of immunocompromise due to a diagnosed condition are also eligible for another shot. According to Lahita, examples of eligible conditions include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, leukemia, lymphoma, vasculitis and HIV.
“It’s important for these groups to get the extra shot because their immune systems are weakened because of their conditions, and thus they are more susceptible to getting COVID,” Lahita said. “They should not hold off.”
If you want to know whether your condition qualifies for a booster shot, speak to your doctor.
How Do Booster Shots Work?
A shot of any vaccine triggers your immune system to recognize the vaccine as the disease, thereby activating your body to produce antibodies to fight against it, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The additional shot of the COVID-19 vaccine will reactivate the body to fight against the coronavirus, training your body over time to recognize and better defend itself against the coronavirus should you be exposed.
“These boosters ‘boost’ the immune systems’ responses to seeing the COVID virus so if someone gets sick, it will not be a very severe infection,” Lahita said.
When Should Those Eligible Get the COVID-19 Shot?
While the FDA has not yet announced when those immunocompromised should prepare to get a second shot, many believe the guidelines will soon recommend a booster shot eight months after vaccination.
Some states, including New York, have announced third doses are being administered as early as this week.
What About the WHO’s Plea for a Moratorium on COVID-19 Booster Shots?
Earlier this month the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a booster shot moratorium, asking developed nations to stop distributing additional vaccines until the goal of vaccinating 10% of the population of each country is reached.
“We need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low income countries,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
Their goal is to have 40% of the world vaccinated by December, and 70% of the world vaccinated by the middle of 2022, according to CNBC.
As of this month, 10 countries have administered more than 75% of the world’s vaccines, with developing countries receiving just 1% of the world’s vaccines, Time reported.
There are at least 10 countries that have vaccinated less than 1% of their populations, according to research by The New York Times.
“It’s a disaster,” Lahita said. “Why are we starting with third shots when we have so many who don’t even have their first shots yet?”
He added that reaching the WHO’s goal is crucial to reaching worldwide heard immunity, thereby effectively eliminating the COVID-19 and ending the pandemic.
“But I don’t see us getting there anytime soon,” Lahita said. “There is a lot of vaccine hesitancy. If we could immunize most of the population, we wouldn’t have a problem.
However, those who qualify for a booster shot in the United States as per the FDA’s new guidelines should not wait to get vaccinated, Lahita urged.
“There is not really anything the individual can do to support those in developing countries and their vaccination goals – they don’t have the power,” he said. “All they can do is encourage and convince their family, friends and neighbors to get vaccinated.”
If You Don’t Fall in The Categories Mentioned, Should You Get a Third COVID-19 Vaccine Dose?
According to the FDA, “other individuals who are fully vaccinated are adequately protected and do not need an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine at this time.”
However, they clarified that rules and requirements are continuing to change as new research and data comes out. “The FDA is actively engaged in a science-based, rigorous process with our federal partners to consider whether an additional dose may be needed in the future,” the statement read.