December 5, 2022

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized updated coronavirus booster shots for children as young as 5, making it likely the shots will be available shortly.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, must recommend the shots before they can be administered — something that appears assured. The CDC has indicated it won’t convene its outside advisers on the matter.

The FDA gave emergency use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech updated booster shot for children 5 to 11. Previously, it had been cleared for individuals 12 and older. The agency cleared the Moderna bivalent booster for children 6 to 17. It had previously been authorized for people 18 and older.

“Since children have gone back to school in person and people are resuming pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is the potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus that causes covid-19,” Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccine official, said in a statement. “Vaccination remains the most effective measure to prevent the severe consequences of covid-19, including hospitalization and death.”

Whether parents will get their children inoculated with the retooled booster is far from clear. Since the FDA rushed out the boosters for older age groups in late August, the uptake has been disappointingly slow. A third of adults say they eventually plan to get those shots, according to polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Biden administration has been urging adults to get the retooled booster because of concerns that cooler weather will bring a new surge of covid-19 cases as people move indoors and respiratory infections spread.

The reformulated boosters are bivalent — they include components of the original strain of the virus and of omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which make up about 80 percent of the cirulating virus, according to the CDC. The updated version is designed to better protect against covid-19 as the coronavirus continues to mutate. Health authorities have said the boosters are needed to restore protection that has waned since previous vaccinations and that the new variants are more transmissible and capable of evading immune defenses.

The updated boosters can be administered at least two months after the initial, two-shot series of the vaccine or after a previous booster.

Vaccinations of children and adolescents with the initial two-shot series have lagged. Only 31 percent of children 5 to 11 years old have gotten the two shots, and 58 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds have completed the series, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics analysis of CDC data.

FDA officials have said that authorization for a bivalent booster for children younger than 5 is several months away.

The federal government bought more than 170 million doses of bivalent covid-19 vaccine boosters for distribution as part of a planned campaign for fall and early winter to increase protection against circulating strains of the virus.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

The latest: The CDC has loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.

Variants: BA.5 is the most recent omicron subvariant, and it’s quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about it, and why vaccines may only offer limited protection.

Vaccines: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. The omicron variant is behind much of the recent spread.

For the latest news, sign up for our free newsletter.

Source link