KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A COVID-19 booster shot could be just days away from getting into the arms of people who are immunocompromised.
Getting there is a two-step process. The FDA must approve the third MRNA COVID-19 vaccine shot for emergency use. Then the CDC is expected to meet Friday to decide whether to recommend the third shot’s use as a booster.
Among those who will be eligible are cancer patients, people on drugs that suppress the immune system and transplant patients. Approval is exciting news for people who are still trapped in the pandemic.
“I really have been for the most part under lock and key just feeling that vulnerability,” Scott Novorr said.
His life has not been the same since his bone marrow transplant through the University of Kansas Cancer Center in 2018, which basically wiped out his immune system. He had to avoid contact with people until it was built back up.
“I learned how to quarantine before quarantine was cool,” Novorr said. “Once I finally start to feel like there’s daylight and I’m recovering and I’m healing, we get hit with a pandemic. So, in one sense we were prepared for it, but in another sense, it felt like a gut punch.”
Novor was relieved when got the two-shot Moderna vaccine but knowing his body would not develop the same immunity as an uncompromised person. The possibility of a third shot is life-changing.
“I think a little bit of extra freedom and peace of mind for my kids who have really just forfeited so much, you know, to protect me,” Novorr said.
The CDC estimates nine million people in the U.S. are immunocompromised. COVID-19 vaccines train the immune system to fight off the virus and prevent it from doing great damage.
The immune system of people who are immunocompromised needs additional training to build up enough antibodies to protect them.
“In general, those patients are just more at risk of more adverse outcomes, if they get COVID-19, even more than the general population,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention at The University of Kansas Health System. “But, the vaccines for those patients are safe. There’s no increased risk of complications, or rejection from getting the vaccine.”
Hawkinson and others are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to give the third shot after receiving CDC guidance.
“How long after that second dose, do we give it? Is it two months? Is it four months? So, we’re still kind of waiting on that,” Hawkinson said. “I’m all for preventive measures for COVID-19 because once you get it, you do roll the dice.”
As he looks forward to his booster shot, Novorr hopes more people will get vaccinated to help stop the spread and knock down future variants.
“It’s a it’s a small thing to ask. But the effects are, are wide spreading, and I just don’t see a path out of this until we get a whole lot more people on board,” Novorr said.
An announcement about booster shots for other segments of the population is expected to come as early as next month.