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WASHINGTON — Federal health officials signaled Thursday they’re hunting ways to quickly learn if a third COVID-19 vaccine dose might better protect organ transplant recipients and other patients with weak immune systems.
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The meeting comes as the delta variant continues to infect Americans throughout the country.
While the vaccines are strongly effective in most people, many Americans with immune-suppressing health problems remain in limbo after immunization, uncertain how protected they really are. France and Israel already have begun offering an extra dose to transplant recipients and other immunocompromised people. In the U.S., those patients increasingly are pushing for — even lying to get — another shot, too.
Thursday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed some small studies that hint, but don’t prove, a third dose might help at least some immunocompromised patients. The panel can’t formally recommend an extra dose without Food and Drug Administration permission, but several advisers asked if the government could allow worried patients to sign up for one as part of a study.
“We are actively looking into ways that could be done,” replied CDC’s Dr. Amanda Cohn. “Stay tuned. We are working through those issues.”
READ MORE: ‘Breakthrough’ COVID cases are causing confusion. Here’s what you need to know.
The delta variant makes up 83 percent of virus cases circulating in the U.S., said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, adding that it is one of the most transmissible respiratory viruses we’ve seen.
Even if Americans have already gotten sick with COVID-19, Walensky urged people to get vaccinated because she said it offers more robust and durable protection against the virus.
“These vaccines are some of the most effective we have in modern medicine,” Walensky said, adding that these vaccines are working very well against the delta variant.
“Whether you are vaccinated or not, please know that we together are not out of the woods yet,” she added.
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