Should people with weak immune systems get an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose?

When the pandemic hit, Rachel Battaglia watched people around the world seized by fear that they would contract a highly contagious illness their bodies had no way of fighting. Suddenly people were aware that a cold for one person could mean hospitalization or death for someone else.“It was almost like really nice for me, for a year, to have people be more cautious,” she told PublicSource. “I hate to say that because it was so scary for everybody else.”

Battaglia, a licensed psychologist in Cranberry, spent childhood getting sick over and over, even though she was fully vaccinated for school and for life in college dorms. “I got weird stuff, too,” she recalled. “I got chicken pox all the time. The mumps. I mean, constant upper respiratory infections and pneumonia.”

Around 2006 at the age of 22, she was diagnosed with Common Variable Immune Deficiency [CVID], one of the most frequently diagnosed immune disorders that arise spontaneously, rather than being caused by another illness or event. People with CVID make fewer or no disease-fighting antibodies and do not develop immunity normally after getting vaccines.

Battaglia still gets vaccines, though. She gets flu shots twice a year, and even though she still gets the flu, it is less severe than what she experienced without the shots. When vaccines for COVID-19 became available, she got the Moderna vaccine as soon as she could. Even though she doesn’t produce antibodies, her immunologist said the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, stimulate T cell immunity, which might protect her from severe COVID-19.

Since July 22, when officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] told immunocompromised people and their doctors to “stay tuned” for possible approval of additional COVID-19 vaccine doses that could enhance this population’s resistance to the virus, Battaglia has been curious to find out whether her doctor will recommend another dose.

The announcement came in the wake of reports that people with impaired immune systems do not have the near-complete protection from COVID-19 that vaccines give to everyone else.

And while severe cases are rare across the board for vaccinated individuals, in a study of 45 vaccinated patients with breakthrough infections, 20 of them (44%) were immunocompromised patients.

Roughly 12 million people in the United States have weakened immune systems. They may be immune-deficient from an illness like CVID, HIV/AIDS, lymphoma or another immune system disorder. Those who are immune-suppressed may be taking anti-rejection medicines such as those that keep solid organ transplants working, or they may be receiving treatment for cancer or autoimmune disorders.

Given the longer times immunocompromised people with COVID-19 can be contagious, vaccinating them, their families and communities to form a protective shield has broader implications than keeping one person or family healthy and whole.

(Photo via Adobe Stock)


Should people with weak immune systems get an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose?

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