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The CDC reports booster shots for children ages 5 to 11

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has announced the extension of the COVID-19 booster qualification to include all children over the age of 5, the agency announced Thursday night.

Booster shots will now be authorized for use in children ages 5 to 11, at least five months after completing their first round of shots.

“Today I supported ACIP’s vote to extend the qualification for COVID-19 vaccine boosters. Children 5 to 11 should receive a booster dose at least 5 months after the primary series. Vaccination with a primary series in this age group has lagged behind other age groups making them vulnerable to serious illness, “Walensky said in a press release. “With over 1[ads1]8 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 urge parents to keep their children up to date with the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”

Following the nation’s recent resurgence of COVID-19, the CDC also announced that it is strengthening its recommendation to Americans over the age of 12, who are immunocompromised, as well as all people over the age of 50, to get their second booster shot.

“Over the past month, we’ve seen a steady increase in cases, with a sharp and significant increase in hospitalizations for older Americans. While older Americans have the highest coverage of all age groups 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 serious illness, hospitalization and death,” the CDC wrote.

Earlier on Thursday, the CDC’s independent advisory committee gave the green light for Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 booster shots to children aged 5 to 11, and paved the way for parents to have their children boosted as early as Friday morning.

The panel voted 11-1-1 for approval.

“We have the tools we need to protect these people from serious illness, and to prevent more tragic deaths,” Walensky said in brief remarks at the beginning of the meeting. “It is important for us to predict where this pandemic is moving and to distribute the tools we have where they will have the greatest impact.”

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of booster shots among younger children to be used at least five months after completing their first round of shots.

Children over the age of 5 were eligible for vaccination against covid-19 in November, so the first children to stand in line for their syringe now have about six months of protection.

Pfizer asked the FDA in April to approve its booster vaccines for young children, after submitting data indicating that their shot was safe and generated a strong immune response.

Vaccine efficacy after two doses of symptomatic infection “declined rapidly for children and adolescents during omicron,” said Dr. Ruth Link-Gelles, who heads the COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness Program for the CDC’s Epidemiology Task Force, Thursday. A booster dose in adolescents significantly improved efficacy – up to 71% – in the weeks and months after receiving the third dose.

The vaccine efficacy against hospitalization after doses for children aged 5 to 11 years was around 68%, to a median of 37 days after the second dose, while the efficacy was around 51% in adolescents.

“Somewhat diminishing” was evident when analyzing declining vaccine efficacy for hospitalization in adolescents who had received two doses. However, Link-Gelles reported that there were insufficient data to assess declining efficacy in children aged 5 to 11 or the effect of boosters on hospitalization in children aged 12 to 15.

The benefits of the booster dose outweighed all known and potential risks, and a booster dose could help provide continued protection against COVID-19, officials said, especially given concerns about declining immunity.

Many panelists argued that the pandemic is not over, and continues to pose a risk to all Americans, including young children, and therefore vaccination and boosting are still essential to protect all age groups.

«As a mother, specialist in infectious diseases and a member of [the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices]”My children are older than this age group, but if they were still in this age group, I would give my children this booster,” said Dr. Camille Kotton, clinical director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Vaccination has provided “measurable, detectable” benefits in preventing “a wide range of health outcomes, and it includes infection, emergency room visits, hospitalization and critical illness” in adults, Dr. Matthew Daley, senior researcher at the Institute for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, said, arguing that the same probably applies to young children.

“It just would not make sense that 5- to 11-year-olds are the only group in the age group that qualifies for whom a third dose is not needed to achieve a more lasting and effective immune response,” Daley said.

Panelists added that future booster plans for children this autumn are still unclear, and that giving families access to boosters is now a time-sensitive and important decision.

Ultimately, the goal of the vaccines is to prevent serious illness and death, several panelists said, adding that the benefits of vaccinating children to protect them from serious forms of COVID-19 are clear.

“The goal is not to prevent all infections, but to prevent serious illness, and the data shown were quite good and convinced that a third dose would reduce hospitalization, it would reduce MIS-C, it is reduced after COVID. All this is serious complications that children get. And that’s why I really think we should go in this direction, “said Dr. Katherine A. Poehling, professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and prevention.

Some panelists expressed concern about the need for boosters in children aged 5 to 11 right now, given the fact that a large proportion of children have recently been infected with COVID-19 during the omicron rise.

Dr. Sarah S. Long, a professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine, argued that with increasing infection rates, “now is not the time” to empower younger children.

“I think this is not the time to boost 75% of children – I think most people have had recent infections,” Long argued.

Other experts stressed that doctors and officials should continue to focus on vaccinating more children with their first primary series, especially given the country’s recent increase in COVID-19 pediatric infections and hospitalizations.

To date, only 43% of eligible children, ages 5 to 17, have been fully vaccinated, according to federal data. An even smaller proportion – less than 30% – of children aged 5 to 11 have been fully vaccinated, and will thus be eligible for a booster shot.

In January, the FDA approved the use of a booster dose in teens ages 12 to 15, with 3.7 million teens receiving a booster dose since then, according to the CDC.

In total, 25.7 million children over the age of 5 – about half of those eligible – remain completely unvaccinated, including 18.2 million children aged 5 to 11.

“Boosters are good when they’ve all had their first round, and I think that must be a priority in this,” said Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, associate professor of medicine, Department of Infectious Diseases and Health Policy, Vanderbilt University.

Last week, more than 93,000 additional children were reported COVID-19 cases, an increase of about 76% from two weeks ago, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

The average number of pediatric hospitalization rates has increased by 70% in the last month, according to CDC data, and an average of almost 180 virus-positive children are admitted to hospital every day.

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