There is a Difference Between the “Third Dose” and “Booster” Vaccine for COVID

The FDA as well as multiple medical organizations have reviewed the research regarding a “third dose” of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. At present, the “third dose” is for moderately to severely immunocompromised patients. This is NOT the “booster vaccine.” The “booster vaccine,” which was proposed by the Administration for all Americans, is a different process. The “third dose” is for those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. It is important to note the difference as a booster vaccine, while proposed, has not been approved and to date the science behind such an effort is not fully complete, although it is anticipated to be available shortly for comprehensive review. The “third dose” however, has been approved in certain situations.

At this time, all those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised are eligible for a third dose to be administered TODAY – not 8 months after their first vaccine. These patients include the following:

  • Those who are receiving active cancer treatment
  • Organ transplant recipients who take medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Stem cell transplant recipients in the last two years
  • Advanced or untreated HIV
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant agents

Many people consider themselves immunocompromised on the basis of other underlying disease processes, but at this time, the data only supports giving a third dose to the truly immunocompromised as defined in the list above.

The FDA did announce that all Americans would be eligible for a booster of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine hopefully beginning mid to late September, but only once the vaccines are approved and the process to receive a booster vaccine has been approved by the FDA vaccine committee.

It is important to note that this is a public health measure for over 300,000,000 Americans and must go through the FDA approval and the CDC approval processes. Once this occurs, the Department of Health will receive guidance as to how and who to administer the vaccine to and only then will local authorities have the vaccine to administer.

It is anticipated that the booster vaccine roll out will mirror the initial vaccine roll out – those over 65, healthcare workers, and nursing home residents will be receiving the booster vaccine in a manner similar to the initial vaccination process. This is the “booster vaccine” that people have heard about in the media and should not be confused with the “third dose” which is available now for moderately to severely immunocompromised patients.

Dr. David H. Lindner

Medical Director of the COVID Response Team,

NCH Healthcare System


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