3rd COVID-19 vaccine dose recommended for immunocompromised

The FDA has approved an additional mRNA dose for some individuals

Blue and white poster in a gym reads "COVID-19 VACCINE. A SHOT OF HOPE. REGISTER HERE." People at a registration table in the background.

Certain groups of people are eligible to receive another dose of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended those with compromised immune systems be given a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The third dose should be given at least 28 days after your second dose of the series.

Who’s it for?

Currently, the FDA is only recommending the third dose for immunocompromised patients.

Sanford Health infectious disease specialist Susan Hoover, M.D., said sometimes patients with compromised immune systems don’t respond to vaccines as strongly as others.

“That’s based on the antibody levels that they develop after being vaccinated. We know antibody measurement is not recommended routinely to figure out whether the vaccine is working, but in these people the antibody levels were unusually low. There’s a reason to think these people might not make antibodies well, so there’s reason to think they’re at greater risk than the general public,” she explained.

Patients who fall into the immunocompromised category include:

  • Cancer patients who are actively undergoing chemotherapy
  • Organ transplant recipients
  • Patients diagnosed with immunodeficiency

Other qualifying individuals include people with:

  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids

“I would encourage people to ask their doctor whether they fall into this category,” Dr. Hoover said.

What to expect

If a patient ends up qualifying for a third dose, Dr. Hoover said they can expect a very similar experience to their first two doses.

“Side effects from the third would be similar to the first and second. Most people would get a sore arm, maybe a headache, feel tired, or have a fever. Those are the most common,” she said.

She added that a patient can schedule their third shot through My Sanford Chart, or by calling (877) 701-0779, “similarly to the first and second doses.”

She also said patients should have their immunization records available when they come to their third dose appointment.

It’s effective and safe

Dr. Hoover reiterated that vaccinations are the best way to protect yourself and others from infection of COVID-19.

“Our best protection from this virus, including the delta variant, is to get your vaccine. It may not prevent 100% of infections, but it will prevent you from getting seriously ill, from getting hospitalized, and from death,” she said.

More: As COVID-19 delta variant emerges, vaccine proves efficacy

With the Pfizer vaccine receiving full FDA approval, Dr. Hoover hopes more will get vaccinated. Roughly 49% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s website.

“Some people do hear the term ’emergency use authorization’ and they’re a little put off by that. They think ‘what does that mean?’ Really, that means this was considered to be a situation where we couldn’t afford to spend a lot of extra time. We wanted to facilitate the process so that we could quickly find out whether these vaccines would be useful or not,” she said.

She explained that it’s been roughly one year since the first vaccine subjects were studied.

“The FDA has more long-term information, and they’ve now issued their FDA approval to the Pfizer vaccine the same way they do to many medications that we take every day. So, if the term ’emergency use authorization’ was holding you back, you can now be confident that this has received full approval by the FDA,” she said.

Could others get a third shot?

Toward the beginning of the vaccine rollout, priority populations such as seniors and health care workers were identified and offered the vaccine first.

At the moment, the FDA has only recommended the third shot for immunocompromised individuals.

“(It’s) certainly been in the news that the White House is saying all Americans may need a third dose. We’re waiting on the FDA, ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices), and other authorities like the American Academy of Pediatrics when it comes to children, to review the data, share that with us and give us guidance on that.

“I expect in the next couple of weeks, we’ll learn more.”

Information in this story was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Immunizations, Sioux Falls

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