The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday recommended a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine for organ transplant recipients and others with compromised immune systems, providing extra protection for these people while reducing the potential that they spread the illness.
The CDC said immunocompromised people often have a poor response to the vaccine and can suffer severe, prolonged illness when exposed to the coronavirus. A third shot could jump-start their weakened immune systems, the agency said.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said the decision was an important step as cases of the extra-contagious delta variant continue to surge through much of the country, reaching levels not seen since last winter.
"This official CDC recommendation … is an important step in ensuring everyone, including those most vulnerable to COVID-19, can get as much protection as possible from COVID-19 vaccination," Walensky said.
The decision follows the Food and Drug Administration’s approval Thursday of a third shot for immunocompromised people.
It also comes as Long Island registered 872 new cases — 420 in Suffolk and 452 in Nassau — of the virus on Thursday, continuing a rise in cases, according to state figures released Friday.
What to know
- The CDC recommended a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine for organ transplant recipients and others with compromised immune systems.
- The CDC recommendation applies to only an estimated 3% of the population.
- Studies show that almost half the vaccinated people who end up hospitalized from COVID-19 have compromised immune systems.
Small group needs booster
"These people are in the workforce everyday," said Dr. Sharon Nachman, Stony Brook Medicine's division chief for pediatric infectious diseases. "Perhaps giving them a third dose will tune up their immune systems."
The CDC recommendation only applies to an amount the agency estimated is about 3% of the total population. It does not open the door for others to receive a booster shot, and it does not address those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The CDC's list of qualified people includes: recipients of an organ or stem cell transplant; those undergoing cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood; people receiving high-dose steroids and those with advanced or untreated HIV or moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency.
"The more people who are vaccinated, the less people will contract the virus and the less people will spread the virus," said Onisis Stefas, chief pharmacy officer for Northwell Health.
Stefas said studies showed that almost half the vaccinated people who end up hospitalized from COVID-19 had compromised immune systems.
Those with weakened immune systems also have the illness for longer periods of time, he said.
"The longer they have COVID-19, the more chance of them spreading it," he said.
The CDC said qualified people who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine could take the booster shot at least 28 days after getting their second shot.
Other countries — including France, Israel and Germany — are also recommending a third shot for the immunocompromised.
When will rest be eligible for boosters?
Separately, U.S. health officials are continuing to closely monitor if and when average people’s immunity wanes enough to require boosters for everyone — but for now, the vaccines continue to offer robust protection for the general population, officials said.
There’s little data on how well a third dose works, and if it causes any safety problems such as an increased risk of organ rejection. Wednesday, Canadian researchers reported that transplant recipients were more likely to have high levels of antibodies if they got a third dose than those given a dummy shot for comparison.
Dr. Uzma Syed, chair of the COVID-19 task force at Catholic Health’s Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, agreed with the federal decision.
"The end goal is not to have much virus around, so less people get exposed, and less people get sick and need to be hospitalized and die," Syed said.
Long Island cases still rising
Meanwhile, Long Island continues to move in the wrong direction regarding COVID-19. The region had two of the state's 13 deaths Thursday, both in Suffolk, according to state figures.
Long Island's average number of coronavirus-related deaths per day reached two deaths for the seven days ending Tuesday. The last time the Island reached this average was in May, according to a Newsday analysis.
A separate Newsday analysis looked at when New York and Long Island could reach various levels of vaccination at the current 7-day average pace of vaccination.
Currently 64.6% of those in Nassau are fully vaccinated, and 58.2% in Suffolk.
A total of 70% of Long Islanders will have been fully vaccinated by Nov. 16, according to the Newsday analysis.
By June 23 of next year, 90% of Long Islanders will have been fully vaccinated.
For the state, 70% of New Yorkers will have been fully vaccinated by Jan. 1, 2022. And 90% of New Yorkers will have been fully vaccinated by Aug. 22, 2022, according to the analysis.
"COVID-19 and its Delta variant are still a threat to New Yorkers and people around the globe, and the clear path forward is vaccinating as many people as we possibly can," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.
With Matt Clark and AP
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