KEY POINTS

  • The FDA recently approved the distribution of a third vaccine dose for immunocompromised Americans
  • Patients as young a 12 will be given a third dose of Pfizer's vaccine
  • Patients as young as 18 will receive a third shot of Moderna's vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently granted emergency use authorization for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but the shots will only be available to people who are immunocompromised. 

The third dose will be considered part of the government’s vaccination program for people with moderate to severe weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"This EUA is intended to be for people with moderate to severe immunosuppression and not persons with chronic conditions for which there might be mild associated immunosuppression," the CDC’s Dr. Amanda Cohn said during a meeting of the agency’s vaccination panel, CNN reported.

Immunocompromised patients include recipients of organ transplants or hematopoietic stem cell transplants, people receiving active treatment for solid tumor malignancies, people receiving high-dose corticosteroids, and those with advanced or untreated HIV infections, according to the CDC

Patients with weakened immune systems as young as 12 will be given a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine. People as young as 18 will be administered a third dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

People with weakened immune systems who are hoping to get the third dose would not be required to bring a prescription or doctor’s note. Third doses will also be made available at doctors’ offices and major pharmacies, including CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens. 

Several studies found that the initial doses have a lower efficacy rate for the immunocompromised. Among people with immune deficiencies, the vaccines have a 90% to 94% effectiveness rate. Among people with weakened immune systems, the efficacy rate falls between 59% to 72%. 

A separate study also found that 40% to 44% of all breakthrough cases who were admitted to hospitals involved people with weakened immune systems. 

"If I was someone who was on one of the medications that was on the CDC list, you know, I would almost consider myself unvaccinated at this point," Dr. David Karp, head of the Division of Rheumatic Disease at UT Southwestern Medical Center, told NPR.

It is unclear when the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine would be authorized for the general population. However, Biden administration officials are developing a plan to begin offering booster shots as early as this fall, a person familiar with the discussions told The New York Times

The trial will test the efficacy of combining an 'inactivated' vaccine made by China's Sinovac with a DNA-based one The trial will test the efficacy of combining an 'inactivated' vaccine made by China's Sinovac with a DNA-based one Photo: AFP / Lillian SUWANRUMPHA