An advisory panel to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted Thursday to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for children ages 5 to 11 at least five months after completing their basic immunization course.
The consultants considered data from the CDC showing that protection from two doses wears off over time and that booster shots in older age groups improved efficacy against severe COVID and hospitalization.
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The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved booster doses of the Pfizer PFE.N/BioNTech 22UAy.DE vaccine for the age group as COVID cases surge again in the United States.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has yet to approve the committee’s recommendation, but signaled at the meeting that she would likely support the additional recordings.
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“We know that immunity wanes over time and we must do what we can now to protect the most vulnerable,” Walensky said. “It’s important for us to anticipate where this pandemic is going and deploy the tools we have where they will have the greatest impact.”
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The U.S. government has pushed for eligible Americans to be topped up, but fewer than half of those who are fully vaccinated have rolled up their sleeves for an additional shot.
Pfizer said at the meeting that data showed that a third dose of its vaccine elicited a strong immune response against the Omicron variant in healthy children ages 5 to 11.
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The CDC also presented safety data showing that the incidence of post-vaccination heart inflammation was significantly lower in the age group than in adolescents and young adults.
Just over 29 percent of US children ages 5 to 11 are considered fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The vaccine has not yet been approved for children under the age of 5.
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The immunization committee voted 11-1 to recommend the additional shots, with one doctor abstaining.
dr Helen Keipp Talbot, a professor at Vanderbilt University, was the only committee member to vote against the booster vaccination recommendation, arguing that the focus should be on increasing vaccination coverage in the age group.
“Boosters are great once we’ve all gotten their first round,” she said.
Companies are already assessing the potential need for fall redesigned COVID-19 vaccines to target new variants of concern.
CDC scientist Dr. Amanda Cohn said newly designed vaccines may not be immediately available for children because the pediatric shots have a different formulation than those that would be given to adults.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New Jersey; Editing by Bill Berkrot)