Fauci: Booster shots for immunocompromised 'very high priority' in COVID-19 fight

Fauci: Booster shots for immunocompromised 'very high priority' in COVID-19 fight
© getty: Anthony Fauci

The Biden administration is working to get immunocompromised people booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine "as quickly as possible," Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFDA advisory panel scheduled to discuss Merck COVID-19 antiviral pill Feehery: Build back bipartisan Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council on Mental Wellbeing — Merck asks FDA to authorize five-day COVID-19 treatment MORE said Thursday, calling the group "vulnerable."

Administration health officials have said that booster shots overall are not needed at this time, but Thursday's comments from President BidenJoe BidenJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Fill the Eastern District of Virginia  Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted MORE's chief medical adviser signal a new urgency for additional shots to those with compromised immune systems.

That group includes people who have received organ transplants, are undergoing chemotherapy or are taking medications that suppress their immune system. Slides presented at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee meeting last month estimated the group accounts for 2.7 percent of all U.S. adults.

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"Immunocompromised individuals are vulnerable," Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said at a White House press briefing on Thursday.

With some exceptions, he said, they "do not make an adequate response [to the COVID-19 vaccine] that we feel would be adequately protective."

"It is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters, and we are now working on that and will make that be implemented as quickly as possible, because for us and for the individuals involved it is a very high priority," Fauci said.

It is not clear exactly when the Food and Drug Administration and CDC would formally make the recommendation for immunocompromised people to receive a third dose.

Fauci said earlier in the week at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event that a "regulatory mechanism" would need to happen first.

The debate over booster shots has been heating up, with countries like France and Germany offering them to certain groups like the immunocompromised and the elderly.

The World Health Organization is warning wealthy countries against giving third shots when many people are still waiting for their first shot.

Moderna, which produces one of the vaccines used in the U.S., said earlier Thursday that it thinks booster shots will likely be needed before the winter, as immunity wanes and as the delta variant rages.