The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday approved booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, citing an increase in infections among adolescents and young adults and a worrying increase in hospitalizations pediatric.
As the contagious variant of Omicron spreads across the country, public health officials have seized additional doses of the vaccine as a first line of defense. Pfizer-BioNTech recalls are now permitted for any American over 12 years of age who are five months past their second dose of the vaccine.
An advisory committee recommended the changes following a meeting on Wednesday. They were approved by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, on Wednesday evening. Teens between the ages of 12 and 15 can start receiving boosters immediately. Teens aged 16 and older were already allowed to receive booster shots, but the CDC panel on Wednesday reinforced the recommendation.
The advisory group followed a similar move earlier this week by the Food and Drug Administration, which authorized Pfizer-BioNtech booster shots for adolescents and shortened the recommended time interval between the initial vaccination schedule and the booster.
The FDA has also approved an “additional primary dose” of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for moderately to severely immunocompromised children aged 5 to 11 years to be administered 28 days after their second injection.
Studies suggest that side effects from the vaccine are minimal in children, although there is lingering concern about a link to myocarditis, a rare inflammation of the heart muscle that occurs more frequently in young men, after vaccination.
In Israel, which began giving boosters to adolescents aged 12 to 15 in June and strictly monitoring side effects, the health ministry has identified two cases of myocarditis, among some 41,600 adolescents in this age group. age who received the recall.
Both children were hospitalized briefly and made a full recovery, said Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, an Israeli health official who addressed the committee.
The booster significantly reduced infection rates in children aged 12 to 15, said Dr Alroy-Preis. Although most of the young people infected generally did not suffer from severe Covid disease requiring hospitalization, two children – a boy and a girl – have died, she said.
But while much of the committee’s discussion focused on the risks of the vaccine and its side effects, Dr. Camille Kotton, associate professor at Harvard Medical School specializing in transplants and immunocompromised patients, said that the focus should be on the disease itself, which has a devastating effect on vulnerable and immunocompromised patients.
“This is an important thing to think about – the risk of myocarditis from the disease itself,” Dr. Kotton said.
Although Omicron is generally seen to cause less severe illness, she said, she now sees many patients in intensive care. Some are dead.
“It’s a horrible situation,” she said. “The highly infectious nature of Omicron is such that patients who have been incredibly careful over the past two years have been infected with terrible results.”
Dr Katherine Poehling, director of pediatric population health at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, expressed similar sentiments. “There are kids waiting in the emergency room for 18 hours and over to get into the hospital because we are so full,” she said. “We have parents who ask us if their children can be boostered, like older children.”
But several committee members said they were increasingly concerned that only a minority of young children are getting vaccinated, and said it was essential to increase rates and adhere to other prevention strategies, such as masking.
“We can’t put the whole burden on people who are ready to get the vaccine,” said Lynn Bahta, committee member and registered nurse with the Minnesota Department of Health. “When we only get half of our teens vaccinated, it also adds an extra burden. I am so concerned that the burden of disease prevention rests entirely on the vaccinees and that they are receiving the boosters. “
Over 70 percent of people aged 12 and over in the United States are fully vaccinated, CDC says Children under 5 are still not eligible for vaccination.
Americans 18 years of age and older who have received Moderna’s vaccine may be reminded of any available coronavirus vaccine six months after the second injection. Those who have received the Johnson & Johnson single injection vaccine may receive a booster dose of any available vaccine two months after their first injection.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are both strongly preferred over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC said. Only Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for children 5 to 11 years old; boosters are not yet recommended for this group.