US government advisors said Thursday that children aged 5 to 11 should receive a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly adopted the panel’s recommendation, opening up a third COVID-19 shot to healthy primary-age children — just as it’s already recommended for everyone 12 and older.
The hope is that an additional shot will provide protection for children ages 5 to 11 as infections rise once again.
“Vaccination with primary series among this age group lags behind other age groups, making them more vulnerable to serious disease,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky said in a statement.
“We know these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are safe,” she said.
Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s baby-sized boosters to be offered to children at least five months after their last shot.
CDC takes the next step of recommending who really needs vaccination. Its advisers debate whether all healthy children ages 5 to 11 need additional doses, especially since so many children were infected during the giant winter boom of the Omicron variant.
But for the first time since February in the US, an average of 100,000 new cases are being reported a day. And finally, CDC advisers point to mounting evidence from older children and adults that two primary vaccinations and one booster are providing the best protection against the latest coronavirus variants.
“It always probably should have been a three-dose vaccine,” said Dr. Grace Lee of Stanford University, who chairs the CDC’s advisory panel.
The booster question isn’t the hottest vaccine topic: Parents still anxiously await the opportunity to vaccinate children under 5 — the only group not yet eligible in the US
Food and Drug Administration’s Dr. Doran Fink said the agency is working “as fast as we can” to evaluate an application from vaccine maker Moderna, and is awaiting final data on the youngest children from rival Pfizer. The FDA expects its advisers to publicly debate data from one or both companies next month.
For children ages 5 to 11, it’s not clear how much the booster will be in demand. Only 30% of people in that age group have received the first two doses of Pfizer since vaccination began in November.
Dr. Helen Kiep Talbot, CDC advisor at Vanderbilt University, said health officials should do more to get young people their initial shots.
“It should be a priority,” she said.
Thursday’s decision also means that children ages 5 to 11 with severely weakened immune systems, who should get three initial shots, would be eligible for a fourth dose.
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech currently provide the only COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S. for children of any age, ages 5 to 11, who receive a dose that is available to everyone 12 years of age and older. One third of the amount to be given.
In a small study, Pfizer found that a booster revived those children’s levels of virus-fighting antibodies — including those capable of fighting off the super-infectious Omicron variant — by the same jump as adults with an extra shot. Get.
Vaccines can’t always prevent mild infections, and the Omron version in particular has proven to be able to outpace their defenses. But the CDC cited data during the Omicron surge that showed hospitalization rates among children ages 5 to 11 were twice as high as those of young people who got their first two doses.
Health officials say that for all ages, vaccines still provide strong protection against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, especially after the third dose.
Some particularly high-risk people, including those 50 and older, have been offered the choice of a second booster or a fourth shot — and the CDC also strengthened that recommendation Thursday, looking to go ahead and Urges anyone eligible to receive an additional dose. ,
It is still to be decided whether all will require additional shots in the fall, possibly improved to provide better protection against the new coronavirus variants.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.