The CDC has approved a fourth Covid-19 vaccine shot for adults with compromised immune systems, allowing for yet another dose amid concerns of waning immunity, as some pharma firms even hint at yearly boosters for all Americans.
Those who are “moderately and severely immunocompromised” may receive a total of four vaccine doses, including an initial two-shot inoculation, one additional dose, followed by yet another booster, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an updated guidance on Tuesday.
The immunocompromised were the first to receive authorization for vaccine boosters back in August, with US health agencies subsequently approving additional doses for people in other high-risk categories, such as those aged 65 and older and adults more likely to be exposed to the virus.
However, for the immunocompromised, the CDC classifies a third shot as an “additional dose,” which uses the same amount of vaccine as the previous two, while the fourth jab approved on Tuesday is defined as a “booster” proper. The fourth dose uses only half the volume of the others.
The amended guidelines come soon after US health agencies gave the nod to a “mix and match” approach to boosters for all adults. The move allowed those who received one brand for their initial round of vaccination to select another for their booster dose, meaning that someone who originally took the Moderna jab, for example, could choose Pfizer-BioNTech for their booster.
The debate over booster shots kicked off as data emerged that vaccine-induced immunity wanes over time, suggesting the need for additional doses to ensure prolonged protection. However, with boosters now formally approved for an ever-broadening group of Americans, the exact definition of “fully vaccinated” has slowly blurred.
In September, top White House Covid adviser Anthony Fauci acknowledged that a booster dose would “likely” be needed for an American to qualify as “fully vaccinated” in the future – a point echoed last week by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who noted “We may need to update our definition of ‘fully vaccinated’” due to boosters.
With immunocompromised adults now authorized to receive a fourth vaccination and US health officials increasingly talking up the need for additional doses, some Big Pharma firms are now predicting a “continuous need for boosting,” with Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan saying on Tuesday that the company’s jab “may well need an annual booster.”
Afeyan – who recently broke into the prestigious Forbes 400 list riding high on Moderna’s pandemic profits – is not the first Big Pharma exec to propose a never-ending series of boosters, with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla raising the idea of “annual revaccination” back in April.