Immunocompromised people, health experts reflect on idea of COVID-19 booster shots

Posted at 5:35 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 17:35:56-04

TAMPA, Fla. — COVID booster shots for people with compromised immune systems could be on the way as the FDA is expected to take action on the matter soon. It’s a move that health experts say could help protect some of the medically vulnerable, who may not get as high an immune response from the vaccine as other people.

Patrick Nielsen is still vigilant with safety precautions during this pandemic. He had a kidney transplant, and because of medication he takes, he explains he’ll be immunocompromised for life.

“I actually just came back from a lab work this morning, and I had tested to see if I had antibodies in my body because some of the medications you take and everything will just wipe it all out,” said Nielsen. “I was just checking to make sure the antibodies are there because if not, maybe another shot would be needed.”

Nielsen has already gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC says the COVID vaccines can be safely administered to immunocompromised people, but also states “data suggest immune response to COVID-19 vaccination might be reduced in some immunocompromised people.”

“I think it’s a great idea if it’s needed,” said Nielsen. “ I actually do have an appointment with my nephrologist next week, and that’s one of the topics I was going to ask.”

“We’ve seen in other countries, like Israel and France, they’ve already started doing these third doses for immunocompromised people,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor at USF Health.

Dr. Teng explains there’s a subset of people that’ve gotten both doses of the mRNA vaccines, who later find they haven’t mounted a robust immune response against the virus. The CDC shares these could be people undergoing chemotherapy, receiving organ transplants, or using certain medications.

“Then they get another dose, and then it’s hitting them again trying to tell their immune system this is a foreign invader, trying to get immune system ramped up again, and then you actually see an immune response,” said Teng.

The CDC says the safety, effectiveness, and benefit of additional doses of COVID vaccines in immunocompromised people continues to be evaluated. Nielsen shared if a doctor recommended it, he’d be open to a booster.

“As long as all the boxes get checked out by the doctors and transplant center, then definitely,” said Nielsen.

The FDA sent ABC Action News the following statement:

"The FDA is closely monitoring data as it becomes available from studies administering an additional dose of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines to immunocompromised individuals. The agency, along with the CDC, is evaluating potential options on this issue, and will share information in the near future."