COVID-19 Vaccine Update: Booster Shots and the Pfizer FDA Approval

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been some major updates around the COVID-19 vaccines. We wanted to provide you with more information about what these updates mean for you and your loved ones.

Firstly, we are thrilled that the FDA has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which many of you received. The approval cements what we have seen in the data for months: The vaccine is safe. It prevents severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death. It is saving lives.

Secondly, the FDA authorized a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for people who have weakened or compromised immune systems. We are starting to schedule vaccinations for patients whose immune systems are severely weakened. This includes people who have received an organ transplant and are taking therapies that suppress their immune systems, and individuals who are in active treatment, such as chemotherapy or a daily radiation therapy for cancer. These individuals have a harder time fighting infections and are especially vulnerable to viruses like COVID, so a third vaccine dose may increase their protection.

The vast majority of the public may be eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines this fall and winter, pending final recommendation and approval by the CDC. Unlike last winter, there is ample supply of the vaccines, and local pharmacies are offering both COVID and flu vaccines. We are confident in our area pharmacies’ ability to provide your COVID booster shots, safely and conveniently, just like they do with flu shots every year. When a booster shot is authorized and available to you, we recommend that you take it.

If you need our care, we are here for you, and we continue to follow guidelines to ensure our hospitals and clinics are safe. Penn Medicine was the second health system in the country and the first on the east coast to require its staff to get vaccinated, because we recognized how important that decision was to the health and safety of our workforce, our patients and our community.

For more information and updates on the COVID-19 vaccines, please visit our website.

As always, thank you for trusting us with your care.

Sincerely,

P.J. Brennan, MD
Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President
University of Pennsylvania Health System

Deborah A. Driscoll, MD
Senior Vice President, Clinical Practice of the University of Pennsylvania
Vice Dean for Professional Services Perelman School of Medicine