CORONAVIRUS VACCINES

What percentage of Americans are immunocompromised?

The FDA and CDC have approved the introduction of additional booster shots for people with low natural immunity, but how many are likely to receive a dose?

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What percentage of Americans are immunocompromised?
PATRICK T. FALLON AFP

Throughout the pandemic health experts have found that immunocompromised people are more susceptible to covid-19 and are more likely to suffer the most serious consequences if they become infected.

The immune response required to fight off a viral infection like covid-19 is less effective in immunocompromised patients. Those who have received an organ transplant, have a history of cancer or have used certain medications like steroids are more likely to fit into this category.

In total, around 3% of Americans have a weakened immune system for a variety of reasons and to varying degrees of severity.

Immunocompromised Americans could soon receive a booster vaccine shot

When the coronavirus vaccines were first granted emergency approval in late 2020 the immunocompromised were among the first groups to receive access to the shots. They were at greater risk if they became infected and many health experts had advised that they shield wherever possible to reduce the risk of infection.

Nearly six months on and they will again be given priority treatment with the next stage of the vaccination process after the Food and Drug Administration granted approval for the use of booster vaccine shots to improve immunity.

Given their low natural immunity, there is concern that some immunocompromised Americans will not be sufficiently protected by the first two doses of either the Moderna of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations.

Shortly after the FDA approved the supplementary shots the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did the same, paving the way for the programme to be rolled out. The decision was praised by health officials and healthcare workers for offering additional support to vulnerable patents.

Dr Janet Woodcock, the acting FDA commissioner, said in a statement released on Thursday: “The F.D.A. is especially cognizant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease… After a thorough review of the available data, the FDA determined that this small, vulnerable group may benefit from a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Vaccines.”

She added that the agency was “actively engaged in a science-based, rigorous process with our federal partners to consider whether an additional dose may be needed in the future.”