COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff held news conference this afternoon about the CDC's recommendation that immunocompromised individuals receive a third dose of Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines.
On Friday, a key advisory group with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted to recommend a third dose of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines for certain immunocompromised Americans over the age of 12.
The 11 members on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted unanimously to recommend the booster shot for the at-risk group.
Cleveland clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth all confirmed to News 5 they plan on offering a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine soon to their immunocompromised patients, in line with the recommendation from the FDA and CDC advisory committee.
State health leaders agree this protection may be needed for these patients, especially as the more contagious and dangerous Delta variant drives a surge in new COVID-19 cases across the state.
Immunocompromised Ohioans like Keli Thorn say they've been living in fear.
"Even though I'm vaccinated, my immune is still weakened. You just still worry, you know, what if I catch it from this or going to the store touching this," Thorn said.
Thorn is a kidney transplant recipient who knows she still has to be careful while the virus is spreading and mutating, because people like her are at higher risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19 even with the shots.
Now, a third dose could offer her, and others in her shoes, some peace of mind.
Vanderhoff said we should think of this third dose as less of a booster and more of a change to dosing recommendations that could help the immunocompromised develop a better immune response to the shot.
"Really what we're seeing, is their primary series should probably be a three-dose series," Vanderhoof said.
He says health officials are now considering exactly who should be eligible, but the small group of Americans who have severe immunosuppression include cancer patients, people with advanced HIV and transplant patients.
While that's only about 3% of the population, data shows the immunosuppressed have made up about 44% of the breakthrough cases of COVID-19 where fully-vaccinated people still caught the virus.
But Vanderhoff suggests those who fall into this category consult with their doctor before getting a third shot.
"If you are a patient who believes that this might be the best option for you, that when you receive a vaccine can be a very important decision in terms of the other medicines you might be taking," Vanderhoff said.
As for anxious Ohioans in the general population eyeing a booster shot?
"Going and putting yourself through, getting that additional booster dose at this time would not really seem to be neither necessary nor prudent," Vanderhoff said.
Dr. Vanderhoff says the data shows that healthy Americans are developing a satisfactory immune response to the two-dose series and still have protection from severe illness and death.
Patients will have to wait at least 28 days from their second dose to receive a third. This recommendation is only for the immunocompromised who have received one of the vaccines offered by Pfizer and Moderna. An additional dose is not recommended after the single-dose the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.