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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), upheld a vote Friday by a panel of independent experts that moderate-to-severe immunocompromised individuals may receive a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 booster shot.

The panel’s vote on Friday afternoon was 11 to 0. Walensky said the CDC’s recommendation, which she signed, would help ensure that “everyone, including those most vulnerable to COVID-19, can get as much protection as possible from COVID-19 vaccination.”

The news follows the FDA’s expanded emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines to authorize a booster shot for certain immunocompromised patients.

“This is an important step forward in improving protection against COVID-19,” Dr. Gregory Poland, professor of medicine, infectious diseases and molecular pharmacology at the Mayo Clinic, told Fox News. Poland noted that a careful distinction regarding eligible immunocompromised patients will be important “to maximize vaccine uptake and minimize any potential confusion.”

Patients eligible for booster shots under the recommendation and amended emergency approval include those with moderate to severe immune compromise, such as solid organ transplant recipients, patients with advanced or untreated HIV infection and those taking high-dose corticosteroids and treatments for cancer, among others.

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Committee members were tasked with discussing the following question: Should vaccination with an additional dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (≥12 years) or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (≥18 years) be recommended following a primary series in immunocompromised people, under an Emergency Use Authorization?

Growing evidence had suggested select immunocompromised patients mount a diminished protective immune response, even after two doses of vaccine. HIV and cancer patients, organ transplant recipients and those taking immunosuppressant drugs comprise about 2.7% of the U.S. adult population. 

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The panel said the additional dose should match the vaccine given during the initial series, but if it’s not feasible, another mRNA dose is permitted. The panel also recommended the additional dose be administered at least 28 days after completing the primary series.

Patients eligible for booster shots under the recommendation and amended emergency approval include those with moderate to severe immune compromise, such as solid organ transplant recipients, patients with advanced or untreated HIV infection and those taking high-dose corticosteroids and severely immunosuppressive cancer treatments, among others.

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