Publix, CVS, Walgreens offering 3rd COVID-19 vaccine dose for those with weak immune systems

Publix, CVS and Walgreens are offering a third COVID-19 vaccine shot for certain immunocompromised people.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration ruled -- and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended -- that some people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients, can get a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Publix’s website states certain people who are immunocompromised can book appointments for a third dose. Publix Pharmacy administers the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but the Pfizer vaccine is only available at Publix Pharmacy locations in Duval, Brevard, Orange and Park counties in Florida.

The CVS website says that currently, select immunocompromised individuals who are eligible for an additional dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine can schedule an appointment.

According to Walgreens’ website, eligible immunocompromised people that previously completed the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can find a nearby store and walk in to receive an additional dose.

Transplant recipients and other people with weakened immune systems may not have gotten enough protection from the vaccine to begin with, so they can receive a third dose at least 28 days after their second shot as part of their initial series of shots needed for them to be fully vaccinated.

“Studies have shown that these people are not developing antibodies,” said Dr. Shalika Katugaha, System Medical Director of Infectious Diseases at Baptist Health Jacksonville. “Only one-third of them developed antibodies during some trials.”

For those with normal immune systems, boosters are given much later after full vaccination -- not to establish protection, but to rev it up again.

Katugaha says the vaccines are highly effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalization or death, but over time, that protection wanes.

“Many people have a considerable amount of antibody within that six months, but we don’t necessarily know what’s happening at eight and twelve months, so this is just a very proactive approach to keep everyone protected and safe,” Katugaha said.

U.S. health officials on Wednesday announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans. The plan, as outlined by the chief of the CDC and other top health authorities, calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20.

The first boosters would go to people in high-priority groups that received the initial U.S. vaccinations: nursing home residents, health workers and those with underlying health conditions. Health officials are likely to recommend that the booster be the same brand of vaccine that people received initially.

The CVS website states it’s ready to give boosters once approved. The Publix and Walgreens sites mention following CDC guidelines for who gets an extra dose.

Officials are continuing to collect information about the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was authorized for use in the U.S. in late February, to determine when to recommend boosters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.