August 13, 2021

CDC Recommends Third COVID-19 Vaccine Dose for Immunocompromised People


Late yesterday, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authorized third doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for some people with weakened immune systems. Today, an advisory panel to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted unanimously to recommend the additional shots, and the agency's director signed off on that recommendation this afternoon. Immunocompromised people – who comprise about 2.7% of U.S. adults, or around 7 million people – can begin receiving the shots immediately.

The updates to FDA's existing emergency use authorizations for the two vaccines applies to people who received solid organ transplants and others with similarly compromised immune systems. This move gives physicians more leeway to protect those who did not generate a robust immune response to the initial series of shots. CDC's updated guidance, including a complete list of conditions for which the recommendation is being made, can be found here. Importantly, CDC does not recommend additional doses or booster shots for any other population at this time.

What this means for employers:

Immunocompromised workers are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 and are at higher risk for prolonged infection and transmission. They also have a lower antibody response to the initial vaccine regimen, are more likely to transmit the virus to others and are far more likely to have breakthrough infections than people in more normal health. Here are three things employers can do:

  1. Encourage workers who may be immunocompromised to talk to their healthcare provider about whether a third vaccine dose and other precautions are right for them.
  2. Provide workers with paid time off or flexible scheduling to receive a third dose, if needed, and recover from potential side effects.
  3. Even with a third dose, immunocompromised workers should still take precautions against COVID-19. While the boost will likely give them some additional protection, they should continue to wear masks, stay six feet apart from others they do not live with, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

To help your employees understand the science behind vaccines, we’ve developed a comprehensive vaccine education curriculum which we encourage employers to share with their employees who are interested in learning more.