“Vaccination with a primary series in this age group has lagged behind other age groups, making them vulnerable to severe disease,” Walensky said. “With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected.”
Walensky also announced that the CDC is strengthening its recommendation that people 50 and older should receive a second booster dose — a fourth shot in most cases — to be considered up to date on their coronavirus vaccinations. Previously, the agency said seniors could receive a reminder. Immunocompromised people aged 12 and over should also receive a second booster, she added.
“With the increase in cases, it is important that all people have the protection they need,” Walensky added.
CDC advisers voted 11 to 1, with one member abstaining, to recommend that children ages 5 to 11 receive a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least five months after completing their first round of two shots. Children in this age group who are moderately to severely immunocompromised had previously been allowed to receive a three-dose primary series; particularly vulnerable people can now receive a fourth booster dose. Eligible children can receive a reminder immediately.
The advice comes for a cohort for whom protection from the two-shot regimen has been disappointing. Real-world studies have shown that the effectiveness of the vaccine declines rapidly in children aged 5 to 11, although it has withstood severe consequences. Data provided by Pfizer and BioNTech have shown that a booster boosts children’s immune defenses, especially against the omicron variant.
Advisors debated whether the CDC was offering advice that children “could” get a third dose, or whether they “should” get the booster. Most preferred to say “should”, in part to be consistent with the recommendations for adolescents and adults.
“What we really need to do is be consistent and be as clear and simple as possible,” said Beth Bell, a clinical professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health.
Others supported the booster recommendation because the data shows that a three-dose vaccine likely provides stronger protection than a two-dose treatment.
“I’m afraid the ‘can’ doesn’t represent the urgency we have overall with vaccines,” Katherine A. Poehling, professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Helen Keipp Talbot, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, stressed that immunocompromised children should receive a fourth vaccine to boost their immunity, but said the focus should be on vaccinating more children elsewhere. healthy with their primary streak.
“Very few have had their first two doses, and I think it’s extremely important for us to focus on that before we start boosting them,” Talbot said.
Vaccination coverage among children aged 5 to 11 is low, and it is not known how many parents will adopt booster shots for their children. According to data published by the CDC, less than 30% of children aged 5 to 11 have been fully vaccinated and about 36% have received at least one dose.
Coronavirus vaccine tracking
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized a third dose for children ages 5 to 11. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one authorized for children in this age group, although the FDA plans to authorize other pediatric vaccines in the future.
In a statement on Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said that while covid-19 was less severe in children than in adults, “the omicron wave has seen more children get sick with the illness and hospitalization, and children can also live longer.” long-term effects, even after initially mild illness. Califf said the recall was authorized to provide additional protection for children.
The nation’s largest doctors’ association has endorsed the new booster guidelines for children and expressed concern that so few children have been vaccinated, in part because of the belief that children don’t fall as sick with the virus as adults.
“The Omicron variant has made changes that should alter this calculation,” Gerald E. Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement. “According to [CDC]the highly transmissible variant not only sent more children to hospital and intensive care than previous waves, but unvaccinated children were twice as likely to be hospitalized as those who had been vaccinated.
Other advisers supported recommending the recall for all children in this age group to simplify CDC advice and protect immunocompromised and otherwise vulnerable children who may be exposed to healthy children at school. or in other contexts.
“It’s confusing when we say ‘may’,” said Camille Nelson Kotton, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who treats transplant patients. “I am very surprised to find that the vast majority of immunocompromised patients are not up to date with their vaccinations and are vulnerable to serious and even fatal infections. I believe that a “should” recommendation would help provide the necessary clarity. »
While children have generally suffered from milder illness than adults, some are at risk for severe covid-19. Since the authorization of vaccines for children in November, there have been 2.9 million cases of coronavirus, 6,700 hospitalizations, 739 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) and 95 deaths in children from 5 to 11 years, depending on the data presented. Thusday. The vast majority of these hospitalized children – 90% – were not vaccinated. And 93% of children who developed MIS-C were unvaccinated.
Federal health data released in April showed that by the end of February, 3 out of 4 children in the United States had contracted the coronavirus at least once since the start of the pandemic.
CDC advisers reviewed data that showed the potential of the booster to prevent infection and the likelihood that the third dose could reduce the risk of post-covid conditions like MIS-C, which children aged 5 to 11 years are the most likely to encounter according to the data presented. Thusday. Two studies of coronavirus in adolescents found that vaccinated people were less likely to suffer from post-covid conditions and were less likely to show symptoms 12 to 20 weeks after infection, compared to unvaccinated people.
In a clinical trial investigating the safety of the booster dose, no serious adverse events were reported among participants, including no deaths or cases of anaphylaxis after the third injection. The most common symptoms after the injection were all mild and included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site and fatigue.
Children ages 5-11 are the latest age group to have access to a booster. The CDC recommended boosters for children ages 12 to 17 in January and for all adults in November. The agency allowed people 65 and older to receive a second booster dose – a fourth injection in most cases – although it did not recommend the additional booster for those older people. The youngest children under 5 in the country do not yet have an authorized vaccine.
The advisers’ advice comes amid concerns about waning immunity to vaccines and past infections, just as a highly transmissible subvariant of omicron called BA.2 is rapidly becoming dominant in the United States. The nation reached 1 million coronavirus deaths this week.
“There are too many who lack the necessary protection as we face a further increase in cases and hospitalizations,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at Thursday’s meeting. “We know that immunity wanes over time and we need to do everything we can now to protect those who are vulnerable.”
New infections have approached 100,000 this week nationwide, raising fears the country could see another surge as people plan to gather for Memorial Day weekend. Biden officials, who have called on Congress to authorize more covid-preparedness funding, warned earlier this month of a possible summer surge in the South and a fall surge that could infect 100 million people. people.