Gundersen Health System preparing to offer third vaccine dose, awaiting FDA guidance

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – A decision on whether a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine is necessary is expected later this week.

First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff tells us how one coulee region health care provider is getting ready for the extra shots.

Gundersen Health System is making preparations to provide a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to a wider group of people.

Based off of a CDC recommendation last month, Gundersen has been offering third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to immunocompromised people.

Vaccine Expert Dr. Raj Naik says those who’ve received an organ transplant, have received a stem cell transplant within the last two years, and people with other requirements may need a third dose to give them greater protection against COVID-19.

“Those who have immunocompromising conditions, or are on medications that compromise their immune systems, don’t respond as well to the vaccines,” Naik said. “A third dose was recommended several weeks ago and those people have been receiving doses since that time.”

A group of FDA vaccine advisers on Friday recommended booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for anyone 65 and older, as well as people 16 and older who are at high risk of severe COVID-19.

The FDA is expected to make its official recommendation later this week, which will guide Gundersen in its vaccine disbursement.

“We’re in a good position to be able to deliver vaccines once we have the final recommendations,” Naik said. “There were a few details that weren’t spelled out, like would they be given at eight months, or six months, and to whom it would be given.”

Naik says he’s seen some confusion about the process of getting the third dose approved, but he wants to assure the community that discussions are playing out like they’re supposed to.

“There are advisory committees for both the FDA and the CDC, neither the FDA or the CDC are absolutely bound to follow these advisory committees, but they exist because they want an independent voice of science to help them make the best decision,” Naik explained.

An advisory committee for the CDC is also set to meet this week on the topic of booster shots before the agency can issue its own recommendation.

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