Some moderately and severely immunocompromised Virginians are now able to get a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
The third doses are available because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its vaccination guidelines on Friday, August 13 to recommend third mRNA doses for people who have significantly compromised immune systems.
CDC does not recommend additional doses or booster shots for any other population at this time.CDC
Vaccine providers are expected to start making the third doses available over the next several days, the Virginia Department of Health announced Friday.
“This is important additional protection for people who have impaired immune systems,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “As COVID-19 cases rise across Virginia and the country, everyone who is eligible should get appropriately vaccinated as soon as they can.”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offer powerful protection for otherwise healthy people, but many who take immune-suppressing medications or have diseases that tamp down their immune systems generally get less benefit from the standard two doses. The CDC cited one study suggesting about 40% to 44% of people hospitalized for a so-called breakthrough case — infection after vaccination — are among the immune-compromised.
The CDC says those who are immunocompromised should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate.
People who are immunocompromised should wait at least 28 days after their second dose before receiving their third dose and the CDC recommends that the same vaccine should be given for the third dose as it was for the first two in the series.
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated immunocompromised people have accounted for a large proportion of hospitalized “breakthrough cases,” which suggests immunocompromised people are more likely to transmit the virus to household contacts.
The Virginia Department of Health estimates that about 124,322 of the 4,144,080 Virginians who are fully vaccinated are immunocompromised.
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Anyone age 12 or older can find free vaccination clinics near them by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1).
VDH wants to make it clear that this third shot is not the same as a booster shot. For those with a weakened immune system, the initial immune response following a primary vaccine series may have been insufficient. A booster dose will be administered when an initial sufficient immune response to a primary vaccine series is has waned over time. The need for and timing of a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for people with normal immune systems has not been established yet, although it is under active study.