In a new study from Pfizer, researchers found COVID-19 infections in the ‘fully’ vaccinated are rare but are more common and severe in people with weaker immune systems.
Analyzing healthcare records, the study team found within their pool of fully vaccinated people only 0.08% experienced a breakthrough infection between December 10, 2020 and July 8, 2021.
However, although immunocompromised individuals represented just 18% of those studied, they accounted for over 38% of infections; nearly 60% of all hospitalizations; and 100% of deaths.
The proportion of people with breakthrough infections was three times higher among immunocompromised individuals (0.18%) than among the reference group of non-immunocompromised individuals (0.06%).
The results supplement other real-world studies and support the introduction of a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to increase protection among the immunocompromised individuals
Several countries are currently experiencing a resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 infections despite the rollout of mass vaccination programs.
While COVID-19 mRNA vaccines help protect people from getting infected and severely ill, the risk of breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people is not completely eliminated.
Identifying individuals in the US population who had received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech (BNT162b2) COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, the team looked to examine breakthrough infections among those with and without a weakened immune system.
They analyzed healthcare records of 1,277,747 people aged 16 or over who had received two doses of the BNT162b2 COVID-19 mRNA vaccine between December 10, 2020 and July 8, 2021.
Of this group, 225,796 (17.7%) were identified as immunocompromised—including people with advanced HIV/AIDS, cancer, kidney disease, rheumatologic or other inflammatory conditions, other immune conditions, and bone marrow or organ transplant recipients.
On 12 August 2021, the US FDA authorized an additional dose of an approved COVID-19 mRNA vaccine in certain immunocompromised individuals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that moderately to severely immunocompromised people should receive an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
On 1 September 2021, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) advised that people over 12 with severely weakened immune systems should have a third dose of mRNA vaccine as part of their primary vaccination schedule.
On 11 October 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that people with weakened immune systems should receive an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, due to their higher risk of breakthrough infections after standard vaccination.
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The study is published in the Journal of Medical Economics. One author of the study is Manuela Di Fusco.
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