CDC panel prepares to vote on Covid vaccine booster shots for vulnerable Americans

A key Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group is preparing to vote Friday on distributing Covid-19 vaccine booster shots to Americans with weakened immune systems.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet Friday to consider Covid booster shots for such people, including cancer and HIV patients. On Thursday, the CDC updated its website to reflect that there is now a vote scheduled for the meeting around 1 p.m. ET Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize on Thursday a third Covid vaccine shot for immunosuppressed populations, a highly anticipated move intended to shield some of the most vulnerable Americans from the highly contagious delta variant.

The FDA OK is not the final go-ahead, however. The CDC advisory committee must then issue a recommendation to distribute the booster shots. If the CDC accepts the advisory group’s recommendation, as expected, then third shots could begin immediately.

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Immunosuppressed populations would be the first group in the U.S. authorized to receive booster shots. Federal health officials aren’t recommending extra doses for the general public at this time.

People with weakened immune systems represent only about 2.7% of the U.S. adult population. Still, they make up about 44% of hospitalized Covid breakthrough cases, according to recent data from the CDC group. A breakthrough case is an infection in a fully vaccinated person.

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week new data suggests immune-compromised individuals don’t produce an adequate immune response after receiving two doses of a Covid vaccine.

Earlier Thursday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the FDA has been working closely with Pfizer and Moderna to allow these vulnerable groups to get booster shots.

“An additional dose could help increase protection for these individuals, which is especially important as the delta variant spreads,” she said during a White House Covid briefing. “This action is about ensuring our most vulnerable, who may need an additional dose to enhance their biological responses to the vaccines, are better protected against Covid-19.”

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