The CDC Group recommends Pfizer boosters for kids 12-15 amid the surge in omicrons.

A nurse gives 15-year-old Sherri Trimble a shot at the First Medical Center vaccination clinic in Melbourne, Florida.

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An independent panel of vaccine experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines for children ages 12 to 15 on Wednesday as children return to school amid an unprecedented surge in U.S. infections.

The CDC’s Immunization Practices Advisory Committee, by 13 votes to 1, recommended Pfizer boosters for children 12 to 15 years of age at least five months after the second dose. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to quickly sign committee endorsements, making the third shots available to teens this week.

If Walensky supports the committee’s decision, all teens will be eligible for Pfizer boosters. CDC supported boosters for teenagers 16-17 years old in December.

The number of hospitalizations for children infected with Covid is on the rise in the United States, as the highly contagious variant of omicron is causing a wave of infection among the wider population. Numerous studies have shown that booster shots significantly increase protection against infections and serious illness.

About 3,800 children were hospitalized with Covid as of Wednesday, up 64% from last week and the highest level since HHS began tracking data in the summer, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. 2020 year.

Dr. Sarah Oliver, a CDC spokesperson, told the committee that hospital admissions for teens 12 to 15 years old have remained relatively stable, although she noted that her data are only for December 10 and may not reflect new infections from omicron.

Oliver said the effectiveness of boosters in children 12 to 15 years old is unknown, but third injections are likely to improve protection. A recent study by the UK Health Safety Agency found that boosters are 75% effective in preventing symptomatic infection. However, according to research, Pfizer’s original two-dose vaccine is only about 10% effective at preventing symptomatic infection 20 weeks after the second dose.

On Monday, the FDA authorized Pfizer to make booster vaccines for children 12 to 15 years old at least five months after the second dose. Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s vaccine safety team, told the CDC team that the rapid proliferation of the omicron has prompted the agency to take swift action on teen boosters.

Marks said the FDA has not identified any new safety concerns after evaluating real-world data from Israel on more than 6,000 children aged 12 to 15 who received Pfizer boosters. There were no new cases of myocarditis or pericarditis among these children, the rare side effects where the heart becomes inflamed or swollen.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health in Israel, told the committee that after more than 40,000 booster doses were administered, there have been two cases of myocarditis in the 12 to 15 age group.

Myocarditis is most common after a second dose of Pfizer in children between the ages of 12 and 15. The CDC Vaccine Safety Team identified a total of 265 cases in teens aged 12 to 15 who received two doses of Pfizer by December 19, 2021. The vast majority of cases, 221, occurred after the second dose and 90% of the patients were boys.

As a result of myocarditis, 251 people were hospitalized, but 96% of patients were discharged home. The disease remains rare, with 45 cases per 1 million second doses administered to boys aged 12 to 15, and 3.8 cases per million second doses among girls of the same age group.

Approximately 47,000 teens aged 16 to 17 received Pfizer booster doses in the United States, the next age group eligible for booster packs, and 95% of reported side effects were not serious, according to the CDC.

Dr. Evelyn Twentman, a spokesman for the CDC, told the committee that vaccinations in Israel, where the country has launched a massive booster campaign, has revealed myocarditis in people aged 16 and older, which has been even less common after booster vaccinations.

Dr. Julie Bloom, director of the Texas Children’s Hospitals Immunization Project, told the committee that a booster vaccine recommendation for children 12 years of age and older “cannot come out soon enough.”

Bloom said children 12 and older who get vaccinated with Pfizer are already starting to lose their immunity against Covid from the first two doses, putting them at increased risk from omicron.

At least 7.8 million children have contracted Covid since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than 1,000 children have died from the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We must do everything in our power to minimize any further detrimental effects on the mental health, physical well-being and education of our children,” Bloom said.

White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a press conference on Wednesday that omicron is less dangerous to children than delta, but cautioned against complacency by urging parents to vaccinate their children and boosted vaccinations when they are entitled to.

– CNBC’s Nate Rattner, Don Kopecky and Lauren Feiner contributed to this report.

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