The United States authorized updated COVID-19 boosters for children as young as 5 on Wednesday, seeking to extend protection ahead of an expected winter surge.
Modified boosters rolled out to Americans 12 and older last month, modified doses to target today’s most common and contagious omicron parent. Although there hasn’t been a big rush, federal health officials are urging people to seek additional protection ahead of holiday gatherings.
Now the Food and Drug Administration has given school-aged children the green light to get the updated booster doses as well – one made by Pfizer for ages 5 to 11, and a version from rival Moderna for those like young than 6 years old.
There is one more step before parents can bring their children for the new vaccine: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends the use of vaccines, must approve.
Americans may be tired of repeated calls to get boosted against COVID-19, but experts say the updated plans have an upside: They contain half the recipe that targeted the original strain of coronavirus and half protection against dominant BA.4 and BA.5 omicron versions.
These combination or “bivalent” boosters are designed to broaden immune defenses so that people are better protected against serious illnesses, whether they encounter an omicron parent in the coming months – or a different mutant that looks more like the virus of origin.
“We want to have the best of both worlds,” Pfizer pediatrician Dr. Bill Gruber told The Associated Press. He hopes the updated snaps will “re-energize interest in protecting children through the winter”.
The updated reminders are “extremely important” to keeping children healthy and in school, said Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis.
Parents should know “there are no safety concerns with bivalent vaccines, whether Moderna or Pfizer,” Newland added.
Only people who received their first vaccines – with one of the versions of the original formula – are eligible for an updated booster. That means about three-quarters of Americans 12 and older are eligible. As of last weekend, only at least 13 million people had received an updated reminder, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha estimated on Tuesday.
Much to the chagrin of pediatricians, getting children vaccinated for the first time was more difficult. Less than a third of children aged 5 to 11 have received their two primary doses and would therefore be eligible for the new booster.
This age group will receive children’s doses of the updated booster – and they can receive it at least two months after their last dose, whether it’s a primary or a previous booster, a said the FDA.
Pfizer said it could ship up to 6 million children’s doses within a week of approval, in addition to ongoing shipments of adult doses.
Until now, Moderna’s updated booster was only allowed for adults. Wednesday’s FDA action cleared the recall for teens as well as children as young as 6 years old.
As for even younger toddlers, the first vaccinations didn’t open for the under-5 age group until mid-June – and it will be several more months before regulators decide whether they will have also need a refresher using the updated recipe.
What exactly protection does an updated COVID-19 booster shot provide? It’s hard to know. Pfizer and Moderna begin studies in young children.
But the FDA has authorized COVID-19 reminder adjustments without requiring human test results — much like it approves annual changes to flu vaccines. This is partly because the two companies had previously studied modified experimental plans to target earlier variants of COVID-19, including an earlier version of omicron, and found that they safely activated anti-COVID-19 antibodies. virus.
“It’s clearly a better vaccine, a significant upgrade from what we had before,” Jha said earlier this week.
Jha urged adults to get up-to-date vaccinations in October – as if they were getting flu shots – or at least well before holiday gatherings with high-risk family and friends. People who recently had COVID-19 still need the booster but can wait about three months, he added.
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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