September 17, 2021 by John Fernandez
COVID 19 Roundup: Booster Shots for Immunocompromised Approved; Vaccinated Better Protected Against Re-infection; and More
FDA Approves Third ‘Booster’ Vaccine Shots for Immunocompromised Individuals
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has amended the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to allow for the use of an additional dose — or booster shot — in certain immunocompromised individuals.
Those individuals include solid organ transplant recipients, or those who are “diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise,” the FDA said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is considering “further clinical recommendations” regarding immunocompromised individuals, the FDA added.
The boosters shots do not apply to people who are not immunocompromised, the FDA emphasized.
Less than 3 percent of U.S. adults, or about 7 million people, are immunocompromised and would qualify for the booster shots, according to the CDC. Some of these, such as transplant patients, take immune-suppressing drugs. Others suffer from underlying illnesses that damage the immune system. People with blood cancers may carry impaired B or T cells, which are immune cells vital to fighting COVID-19 and other viruses.
“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,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., in a news release. “After a thorough review of the available data, the FDA determined that this small, vulnerable group may benefit from a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Vaccines.”
Other individuals who are fully vaccinated are adequately protected and do not need an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine at this time, the FDA said.
“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,” said Dr. Woodcock.
CDC Study: Vaccines Offer More Than Twice the Protection Against COVID Re-infection
A new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly confirms the need for the previously infected to get their vaccine shots. The study found that the unvaccinated are more than twice as likely than the fully vaccinated to get re-infected with COVID-19.
Public health officials and infectious disease experts have been recommending that people previously infected with COVID-19 get vaccinated for better protection. Natural immunity does not offer sufficient protection, CDC researchers concluded.
The study looked at unvaccinated Kentucky residents who had a confirmed coronavirus infection last year and found that they had a “significantly higher likelihood of re-infection” than those fully vaccinated. Precisely, the study found that the unvaccinated were 2.34 times more likely to contract COVID-19 again.
“These findings suggest that among persons with previous (COVID-19) infection, full vaccination provides additional protection against re-infection,” the CDC states. “All eligible persons should be offered vaccination, including those with previous (COVID-19) infection, to reduce their risk for future infection.”
While the CDC states that COVID-19 re-infection has been documented, “the scientific understanding of natural infection-derived immunity is still emerging.” The agency adds that the duration of immunity resulting from natural infection, although not well understood, is “suspected to persist for more than 90 days in most persons.”
However, the emergence of new variants likely affects the duration of infection-acquired immunity, and laboratory studies have shown that the previously infected have “weak or inconsistent” responses against several variants.
Citing New Data, CDC Again Recommends Pregnant Women Get COVID-19 vaccine
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reinforcing its recommendation that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19 vaccine following new research underscoring the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines throughout pregnancy.
Public health officials are concerned about the low vaccination rate among pregnant women, which was about 23 percent as of July 31, according to CDC data. Additionally, the reiterated recommendation comes as hospitals nationwide are reporting an increase of unvaccinated pregnant people with severe cases of COVID-19.
The CDC states that is has not found safety concerns for pregnant people in either the new data or previous studies.
“CDC recommends that pregnant people should be vaccinated against COVID-19, based on new evidence about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines,” the agency said in updated guidance that mirrors the recommendation of leading medical societies. “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future.”
Moreover, vaccination of pregnant women builds antibodies that might protect their baby, the CDC said. When pregnant people receive an mRNA COVID-19 (from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) vaccine during pregnancy, their bodies build antibodies against COVID-19, similar to non-pregnant people, the agency states.