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CDC approves boosters for ages 5-11

The recommendation they voted on was: “A single booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is recommended for persons 5-11 years of age at least 5 months after the primary series, under the FDA Emergency Use Authorization.”

The CDC’s Immunization Practices Advisory Committee approved the booster for children at least five months after they received their two-dose series. This would be a third dose for healthy children and a fourth dose for immunocompromised children.

The committee voted for the booster after hearing the details of Pfizer’s request to the FDA to expand access to boosters for this age group. Decreasing antibody levels have been observed in children who received a series of primary vaccinations, and booster doses achieved higher antibody levels than those observed after the primary series.

The company said data from its clinical trials showed it increased anti-Omicron antibodies 36-fold in this age group. The trial which included 4,500 children aged 5 to 11 revealed no new safety issues, according to the company.

“Overall, the benefits of Covid vaccines continue to outweigh the risks as we continue to see, regardless of which age group is highlighted, reception of the primary round of Covid vaccines continues to be critically important for the prevention of serious Covid-19 morbidity and mortality and global booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been shown to increase protection against all outcomes in ages 12 and older” , said Dr Sara Oliver, specialist in pediatric infectious diseases and leader of the ACIP working group on Covid-19 vaccines. “It is likely that children aged 5 to 11 years would benefit from a booster dose of the Covid vaccine -19.”

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been tough on kids. Studies from the New York State Department of Health and the CDC found that the effectiveness of two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages 5 to 12 decreased significantly during the Omicron surge, dropping from from 68% to about 12% against infection. Two doses of the vaccine seemed to prevent the children from going to the hospital.
Although not at the same levels as during the Omicron wave, cases of Covid-19 in children have increased. The number of new Covid-19 cases in children in the United States rose nearly 76% last week compared to two weeks earlier, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced on Monday.
According to the latest CDC report, 1,547 children have died from Covid-19 in the United States and 364 of them were between the ages of 5 and 11.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says nearly 13.2 million children in the United States have tested positive for Covid-19 during the pandemic, with more than 5.3 million of those cases coming this year. These numbers are likely an underestimate, as testing has declined across much of the country.

As for electronic health records, with more than 700,000 doses administered, no real safety issues have been found with the Pfizer vaccine in children, according to a presentation made to the committee.

CDC approves boosters for ages 5-11

Anaphylaxis rates in children aged 5 to 11 years after vaccination with Pfizer were comparable to the rate seen in people aged 12 years and older. In the three months after the first series of vaccines, there were 10 potential cases of myocarditis or pericarditis, both types of heart inflammation, but four of those cases were determined to be unrelated to vaccination, the CDC said in its presentation.

“The general picture is that myocarditis associated with mRNA vaccination compared to viral myocarditis tends to be clinically mild and patients have a good prognosis and a fairly short recovery period,” said Dr. Tom Shimabukuro of the CDC to the committee.

Rates were also lower in this age group than those seen in adolescence. The rate was also lower after a booster dose.

Most children, if they had problems with the vaccine, were considered not serious, such as pain at the injection site. This was similar to the reaction of adults after their second dose.

CDC approves boosters for ages 5-11

Vaccination is an important protection for children. The risk of dying from Covid-19 for children aged 12 and over in February 2020 was 20 times higher in unvaccinated children, compared to those with the primary vaccine series and a booster dose.

While scientists initially thought Covid-19 did not impact children as much as it did adults, deaths from Covid-19 among 5-11 year olds were higher than for a number of others vaccine-preventable pediatric diseases. In 2020, it was one of the leading causes of death for children in this age group.

“It is important to note that the vaccination coverage for these other conditions, these other diseases, is relatively high, which indicates that most parents accept vaccination against hepatitis A, meningococcal, varicella, rubella and rotavirus, although deaths from these diseases are relatively rare,” said Dr. Matt Daley, chair of the COVID 19 Vaccine Task Force and principal investigator at the Institute for Health Research Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

CDC approves boosters for ages 5-11

Parents should also keep in mind that a child who gets Covid-19 can, like adults, develop long Covid, Daley said, even after a child has a mild case of Covid-19. Long Covid symptoms can last for years after the initial infection. Previously vaccinated people were less likely to show symptoms between 12 and 20 weeks after infection compared to those who had not been vaccinated, the CDC said.

Children aged 5 to 11 were also the most vulnerable age group to develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, also known as MIS-C, a rare but serious condition linked to Covid-19. Among this age group, there have been 3,800 cases of MIS-C and 16 deaths, according to the CDC presentation.

“The data do not suggest any potential safety concerns regarding a Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster for children five to seven years old beyond those previously identified in older age groups,” the report said. Dr Helen Keipp Talbot in her presentation of the safety results to the committee.

CDC approves boosters for ages 5-11

Talbot was the only expert who voted against the booster dose for this age group. While she is in favor of vaccinating children against Covid-19, she thinks public health officials should focus on the low vaccination rate in this age group instead of focusing on boosters.

“I really want the kids to be vaccinated,” said Talbot, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University. “We really have to put our time and effort into educating the 70 per cent who haven’t been (vaccinated). The reminders are great once everyone has their first round and I think that has to be a priority.”

In the 5-11 age group, only 35% of children have received a dose and only 28% are fully vaccinated according to the CDC.

Following ACIP’s vote, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will decide whether or not to sign the ACIP recommendation.

Walensky, who gave a keynote address at the meeting, advocated for more people of all ages to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

“There are too many who lack the necessary protection as we face a further increase in cases and hospitalizations,” she told the committee. “We all hoped never to see the death toll rise so high, reaching an unfathomable number when we first learned of this virus.”

“The sadness I feel for the lives lost, the families devastated and the communities changed is profound,” Walensky added. “We have the tools we need to protect these people from serious illness and prevent more tragic deaths.”

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