The US is urging all people over the age of 12 to receive a COVID-19 booster as soon as they are eligible to help fight the highly infectious mutant omicron that is sweeping across the country.
Boosters have already been encouraged for all Americans 16 and older, but on Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an additional Pfizer vaccine for younger teens – 12 to 15 years old – and strengthened their recommendation for 16- and 17-year-olds. too much.
“It is imperative that we protect our children and adolescents from COVID-19 infection and the complications of serious illness,” Dr. Rochelle Walenski, director of the CDC, said Wednesday evening.
“This booster dose will provide optimal protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. I urge all parents to keep their children informed of the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, ”she said.
Vaccines continue to provide reliable protection against serious illnesses associated with any type of COVID-19, including omicron, which experts say is their most important benefit. But the newer mutant can slip through the vaccine’s defense layer and cause milder infections. Research shows that the booster dose at least temporarily raises the level of virus-fighting antibodies to levels that give the best chance of avoiding symptomatic infection, even from omicron.
Earlier on Wednesday, independent scientific consultants from the CDC were trying to decide whether a booster supplement should be an option for young teens, who tend not to get sick with COVID-19 as badly as adults, or more strongly recommended.
Giving teens an incentive for a temporary leap in protection against infections is like playing a mole, warned CDC adviser Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University. But she said the extra shot was worth it to help repel the mutant Omicron and protect children from skipping schools and other problems that arise even in the very mild case of COVID-19.
More importantly, if a child with a mild infection passes it on to a more vulnerable parent or grandparent who then dies, the blow is “absolutely devastating,” said panelist Dr. Camilla Cotton of Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Let’s get this straight,” agreed Dr. Jamie Loer of Cayuga Family Medicine in Ithaca, NY.
The vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, is the only option for American children of all ages. The CDC reports that nearly 13.5 million children aged 12 to 17 – just over half that age group – have received two vaccinations from Pfizer. The boosters were opened to 16-17 year olds last month.
Wednesday’s decision means that about 5 million young people who received their last vaccination in the spring are immediately eligible for revaccination. The new US regulation states that anyone who has received two Pfizer shots and is eligible for a booster can receive it five months after the last shot, rather than the six months previously recommended.
But one member of the committee, Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University, is concerned that such a strict recommendation on booster packs for teenagers will distract from the injections of children who have not been vaccinated at all.
The consultants looked at data from the United States, which clearly shows that the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in unvaccinated adolescents is 7-11 times higher than in vaccinated ones.
While children tend to be less severely ill from COVID-19 than adults, during the omicron wave, the number of children being hospitalized is on the rise – the vast majority are unvaccinated.
During a public comment at Wednesday’s meeting, Dr. Julie Boom of Texas Children’s Hospital said the revaccination recommendation for younger adolescents “cannot come out soon enough.”
A major safety issue for adolescents is a rare side effect called myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation seen primarily in young men and adolescent boys who receive Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The vast majority of cases are mild – much milder than the inflammation of the heart that COVID-19 can cause – and appear to peak in older teens, between the ages of 16 and 17.
The FDA decided that the booster dose was as safe for adolescents as for older adults, based largely on data from 6,300 teens aged 12 to 15 in Israel who received the booster dose. dose of Pfizer five months after the second dose. On Wednesday, Israeli officials said they saw two cases of mild myocarditis in this age group following the introduction of another 40,000 boosters.
Earlier this week, FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said the side effect occurs in about 1 in 10,000 men and boys between the ages of 16 and 30 after a second shot. But he said that the third dose seemed less risky, by about a third, probably because it took longer before the booster shot than between the first two shots.