CDC recommends Pfizer booster for children ages 5-11

Children ages 5 to 11 should receive a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, U.S. government advisers said Thursday.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention quickly adopted the panel’s recommendation, opening up a third COVID-19 vaccine to healthy elementary-age children — much like what’s already recommended for everyone 12 and older.

The hope is that an additional injection will boost protection for children aged 5 to 11, as infections are on the rise again.

“Vaccination with a primary series in this age group has lagged behind other age groups, making them vulnerable to severe disease,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. communicated.

“We know these vaccines are safe and we need to continue to increase the number of children protected,” she said.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration cleared Pfizer’s children’s booster to be offered at least five months after the youngsters’ last vaccine.

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The CDC takes the next step in recommending who actually needs vaccines. His advisers wondered if all otherwise healthy children aged 5 to 11 needed an extra dose, especially since so many children were infected during the huge winter surge of the omicron variant. .

But the United States is now averaging 100,000 new cases a day for the first time since February. And finally, CDC advisers pointed to growing evidence from older children and adults that two primary vaccinations plus a booster offer the best protection against new coronavirus variants.

“Perhaps it should always have been a three-dose vaccine,” said Dr. Grace Lee of Stanford University, who chairs the CDC’s advisory committee.

The recall question isn’t the hottest topic on vaccines: Parents are still eagerly waiting to be able to vaccinate their children under age 5 – the only group not yet eligible in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration’s Dr. Doran Fink said the agency is working “as quickly as possible” to assess an application from vaccine maker Moderna and is awaiting final data on the smallest children from rival Pfizer. The FDA’s own advisers are expected to publicly debate data from one or both companies next month.

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For children ages 5 to 11, it’s unclear what the recall request will be. Only about 30% of this age group have received the first two doses of Pfizer since vaccinations were opened to them in November.

CDC adviser Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University said health authorities need to do more to ensure young people get their first shots.

“It has to be a priority,” she said.

Thursday’s decision also means that children aged 5 to 11 with severely weakened immune systems, who are supposed to receive three initial shots, would be eligible for a fourth dose.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech currently offer the only COVID-19 vaccine available for children of any age in the United States. Children 5 to 11 years old receive a dose representing one-third of the amount administered to all 12 years and over.

In a small study, Pfizer found that a booster boosted virus antibody levels in these children – including those able to fight off the super-contagious omicron variant – the same type of jump that adults get with an extra hit.

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Vaccines don’t always prevent milder infections, and the omicron variant has been shown to be particularly capable of bypassing their defenses. But the CDC cited data during the omicron push that showed unvaccinated children ages 5 to 11 had twice the hospitalization rate as young people who received their first two doses.

Health authorities say that for all ages, vaccines still offer strong protection against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, especially after a third dose.

Some particularly high-risk people, including those 50 and older, have been offered the choice of a second booster or fourth vaccine — and the CDC also reinforced that recommendation on Thursday, urging anyone eligible to go. ahead and get the extra dose.

It remains to be decided whether everyone will need additional vaccines in the fall, possibly reformulated to provide better protection against new coronavirus variants.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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