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Who can get a third COVID shot in Kentucky?

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said the state has decide to include every resident in long-term health care facilities as immunocompromised.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — While health officials could soon recommend an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans, the FDA has already authorized a third shot for immunocompromised people —  but what does that mean for Kentuckians?

Who is considered immunocompromised?

People who are immunocompromised make up about 3% of the U.S. adult population. Currently, the CDC recommends moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive an additional dose. That recommendation applies to people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or blood cancers
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency like DiGeorge or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs to suppress the immune system

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said the state has decide to include every resident in long-term health care facilities in their list of people to receive the third shot.

"For the vast majority of our journey in 2020 and early 2021, two-thirds of all of our deaths occurred in long-term care facilities," Stack said. "Because of their medically frail condition often and the environment they live in...we are determining that all of these individuals in a nursing home are going to be eligible for vaccination for a third dose."

Stack said the list set by the CDC may not include certain specific groups that are also eligible. People are encouraged to ask their health care providers if they believe they might be eligible.

Why is a third shot necessary?

While a majority of current hospitalizations are unvaccinated persons, fully vaccinated immunocompromised people have accounted for 40-44% of hospitalized breakthrough cases.

Dr. Paul McKinney with UofL's School of Public Health and Information Sciences is a member of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. McKinney said a third dose should help improve the antibody response for immunocompromised people to around 70%.

When can someone get the additional dose?

Stack said the state is already offering the third dose to anyone who is eligible. People who are 12 and older can get their third shot at least four weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot.

To find a vaccination site in Louisville, click here. For a site in another part of the state, click here

Will people have to provide proof that they are immunocompromised?

People who are immunocompromised will only need to attest to the fact that they are immunocompromised to get the third shot. Stack said they will not need any paperwork or proof from medical providers.

Will the general population get a third shot?

Health officials are expected to recommend an extra dose of the vaccine for all Americans, but those would only begin to be administered widely once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves the vaccines. Full approval of the Pfizer vaccine is expected around September.

The extra dose would likely be needed eight months after people receive their second dose, as preliminary evidence shows the vaccine's protective effect starts dropping within months. 

Can people who received the Johnson & Johnson shot get a third dose?

The FDA and CDC's recommendations only apply to mRNA COVID vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) because data shows a third dose has given immunocompromised recipients improved responses. The CDC said there is not enough data to determine the response for J&J at this time.

Is this a booster shot?

While this is a third dose of the vaccine, it is not a booster shot. The CDC says a booster shot is given to people with healthy immune systems when the original vaccine series has waned over time. This shot is only meant to improve immunocompromised people's response.

RELATED: More protection: US likely to authorize COVID booster shots

RELATED: Kentucky health commissioner debunks myths about COVID vaccine, masks

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