Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, says an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose is needed for people who have compromised immune systems.
Speaking to NPR's Morning Edition on Thursday, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that for those with compromised immune systems, the need is "so imminent to make sure that we get them boosted so that they would be in a protected zone."
The decision to allow a third dose would come from the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected as early as this week to extend its emergency use authorization on vaccines to allow an additional dose.
Roughly 3% of Americans have an immune system that has been made weaker due to disease, certain medical treatments or organ transplants. For most people, a booster would mean a third dose of vaccine.
The FDA has been evaluating studies showing that people with a compromised immune system can have a weak response to the standard vaccine regimen. Research indicates that a third dose may boost immunity to the coronavirus in these people and protect them from serious COVID-19 complications.
A committee advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet Friday to discuss the data about vaccines in immune-compromised people. If the FDA OKs booster shots, the committee is likely to take a vote on whether to recommend the additional dose and outline who should get it.
Scientists also continue to evaluate whether people with normal immune systems might need an additional dose.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization called on developed countries, such as the United States, to forgo booster shots until less wealthy countries still struggling to vaccinate their populations are able to catch up.
Asked about that concern, Fauci said, "I believe we can do both."
"I feel very strongly, and I've been very vocal about that, that we have a responsibility as a rich nation — and other rich nations — to make sure that there's equity in the ability to distribute and the accessibility of vaccines," he told NPR. "However, the United States is really doing both. If you look at what we are doing, we are essentially doing more than the rest of the world combined."