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Northwell Health has begun administering third doses of COVID-19 vaccine to their immunocompromised patients in an effort to provide that vulnerable group with additional protection amid the ongoing spread of the delta variant of the virus.
The health system announced on Wednesday it had begun giving additional doses of the Moderna vaccine to immunocompromised patients age 18 and older, and an extra dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to those 12 and older, following recent recommendations by both the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
On Wednesday, the CDC along with HHS announced they were recommending individuals get a booster shot out of concerns that protection through the two-dose vaccine regimen would begin to wane over the next several months as preliminary evidence points to a rise in breakthrough COVID infections.
Northwell patients eligible to get a third vaccine dose will include organ and bone marrow transplant recipients, cancer patients currently receiving treatment, those with immune deficiency diseases, HIV, as well as those taking corticosteroids and other medications to treat conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr. Richard Barakat, physician-in-chief and director of the Northwell Cancer Institute, said the pandemic has been particularly dangerous for the 19,000 cancer patients the health system treats. He said those who have contracted COVID-19 have had much more severe illness from the virus compared with non-cancer patients who have contracted the virus.
Studies have found those with weakened immune systems make up nearly half of all hospitalized breakthrough infections. The vaccines are estimated to be from 59% to up to 72% effective against the virus for immunocompromised patients compared with more than 90% among individuals with non-compromised immune systems.
“It is important as the new delta variant spreads in a rapid manner throughout the United States that we address the needs of our cancer patients and providing them with a third dose of the vaccine,” Barakat said in a released statement.
Other health systems have begun preparing to administer third vaccine doses to their immunocompromised patients. Both Mount Sinai Health System in New York City and Loyola Medicine in suburban Chicago said on Monday they planned to begin administering third doses sometime this week, while Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York also announced on Wednesday it has begun offering an additional vaccine dose to their immunosuppressed patients.