CDC clears Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine boosters for children as young as five

A panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s exterior vaccine advisers voted almost unanimously on Thursday to suggest a 3rd dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as five years previous, as early as five months after the second shot. 

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the suggestions Thursday night, clearing the ultimate hurdle earlier than the extra pictures will be rolled out. 

“With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected. I encourage parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations,” Walensky mentioned in a statement

Walensky’s resolution to clear the extra pictures comes as the nation is dealing with a renewed surge of COVID-19 circumstances and hospitalizations pushed by completely different Omicron subvariants than people who fueled the winter surge. 

A rising share of the country is now seeing ranges of illness excessive sufficient to warrant masking by all Americans indoors, in line with the CDC’s knowledge. Hospitalizations have surged among the many oldest Americans, past peaks seen throughout the Delta variant wave final year. 

The CDC additionally mentioned Thursday it might step up its advice that adults ages 50 and older, as nicely as Americans who’re immunocompromised, obtain a second booster. 

The teams had beforehand been allowed to obtain the additional dose, however the company had mentioned some — like those that had survived an an infection just lately — may wait. Receiving the second dose had beforehand not been required to be counted as “up to date.” 

“While older Americans have the highest coverage of any age group of first booster doses, most older Americans received their last dose (either their primary series or their first booster dose) many months ago, leaving many who are vulnerable without the protection they may need to prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” the company mentioned. 

Walensky’s strikes comes after a day-long meeting of the company’s advisers weighing the potential advantages a 3rd dose may provide an age group that has largely survived COVID-19 infections with lagging charges of vaccination.

Less than a third of children ages five to 11 years previous are totally vaccinated with two pictures of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and can change into eligible for the booster.

The agency’s surveys recommend vaccine hesitancy has climbed amongst children, however stays a minority. Approximately 39% of oldsters of children within the age group say they “probably or definitely” is not going to ever get their youngsters vaccinated. 

CDC figures presented to the advisers recommend that round 77% of children within the age group have antibodies from not less than one prior an infection sooner or later throughout the pandemic.

However, these antibodies from prior infections did little to fend off a big wave of COVID-19 circumstances and hospitalizations in an age group the place the illness now ranks as a number one reason for loss of life. 

By distinction, the company officers estimated that some 1,000 hospitalizations had been prevented by vaccination among the many 7.5 million children who’ve acquired two pictures. 

How lengthy that safety in opposition to hospitalization will final for the youngest children is unclear, officers advised the group. 

A nurse places a bandaid on a woman’s arm after administering a pediatric dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a L.A. Care Health Plan vaccination clinic at Los Angeles Mission College within the Sylmar neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, January 19, 2022. 

ROBYN BECK/AFP through Getty Images

Findings from the company’s ongoing research presented to the committee recommend vaccine effectiveness in opposition to an infection declined rapidly in children following two doses throughout the Omicron wave. Vaccine effectiveness in opposition to hospitalization additionally fell amongst unboosted adolescents 12 to fifteen years previous, however there was not sufficient knowledge to substantiate whether or not safety in opposition to hospitalization is waning in unboosted children ages 5 to 11 years previous. 

“It wouldn’t make sense that five to 11 year olds are the only group among the age eligible for whom a third dose isn’t necessary to achieve a more durable and effective immune response,” Dr. Matthew Daley, head of the committee’s work group on COVID-19 vaccines, mentioned forward of the vote. 

Like in older age teams, data introduced to the panel from 401 children in Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine trials suggests the third dose raised no new security dangers. 

The company additionally discovered the third shot supplied a major improve in antibodies, no matter whether or not the kid had a earlier an infection. However, that was measured in children who acquired the third dose as late as 9 months after their second shot.  

“The expectation would be that all the antibody responses might be a little bit lower, but they still should be providing additional protection, much as you’ve seen in other populations,” Dr. William Gruber, head of Pfizer’s vaccine analysis, advised the committee. 

Reactions to the third dose had been largely gentle or average, one other Pfizer scientist told the panel. Only a handful of unwanted side effects – like headache, chills, or muscle ache – had been reported barely extra incessantly in recipients of the third shot. 

“Data do not suggest potential safety concerns regarding a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster for children five to 11 years of age, beyond those previously identified in older age groups,” Dr. Keipp Talbot, head of the panel’s vaccine security work group, mentioned. 

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