Wednesday’s recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for booster shots of the Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12-17 was based on rising infections in adolescents and an alarming increase in pediatric hospitalizations.
Public health officials have taken extra vaccine doses to protect themselves from the spread of the Omicron variant. For Americans over 12 years of age who have not received their second dose of vaccine, Pfizer BioNTech boosters can be used.
After a Wednesday meeting, an advisory panel recommended the changes. They were endorsed and approved by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, C.D.C. Director, on Wednesday night. Adolescents 12-15 years old could be given booster shots right away. Adolescents 16 years and older are already allowed to receive booster shots. However, the C.D.C. approved them for this Wednesday. The panel strengthened its recommendation.
This advisory panel was created in response to a similar move by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this week, which allowed Pfizer-BioNtech boosters to adolescents and reduced the time interval between the initial and booster vaccines.
F.D.A. also endorsed “an additional primary dose” of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for moderately or severely immunocompromised children aged 5 to 11, to be given 28 days after their second shots.
While studies show that vaccine side effect are rare in children, there is concern about myocarditis in young men. This rare inflammation of heart muscle occurs more often in young men.
Israel began administering boosters to adolescents 12-15 years old in June. The ministry closely monitors side effects and has identified two cases in Israel of myocarditis among the 41,600 teens who received the booster.
Both children were admitted for a short time and are now fully healthy, according to Dr. Sharon Alroy Preis, an Israeli health official, who addressed the committee.
Dr. Alroy Preis stated that the booster significantly reduced infection rates among children aged 12-15 years old. Although most infected youngsters generally did not experience severe Covid disease that required hospitalization, two children — one boy and one 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, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who specializes in transplant and immunocompromised patients, said the focus should be on the disease itself, which is having 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.
Omicron is generally thought to cause less severe diseases, but she said she now sees many patients who are on life support. Some have already died.
“It’s a horrible state of affairs,” she said. “The highly infectious nature of Omicron is such that patients who have been incredibly careful the last two years have been getting infected with awful outcomes.”
Dr. Katherine Poehling of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem N.C. shared similar sentiments. “There are children waiting in the emergency department 18 hours and longer to get into the hospital because we’re so full,” she said. “We have parents asking us can their children get a booster dose, like older children.”
However, several members of the committee expressed concern that only a small number of younger children were vaccinated. They called for increased rates and other prevention strategies like masking.
“We can’t put all of the burden on the people who are willing to get vaccinated,” said Lynn Bahta, a committee member who is a registered nurse with the Minnesota Department of Health. “When we have only half our adolescents vaccinated, that adds more burden as well. I am so concerned that the burden of disease prevention is all falling on the vaccinated and them getting the boosters.”
More than 70% of people aged 12 and older are over 70 percent According to the C.D.C. in the United States, all children are fully vaccinated. Children younger than 5 years of age are not eligible for vaccination.
Americans aged 18 and older who received Moderna’s vaccine can get a booster of any available coronavirus vaccine six months after the second shot. Those who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine may get a booster dose of any available vaccine two months after their first shot.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are both strongly preferred over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the C.D.C. According to the C.D.C. Children aged 5-11 years old can only use the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine; boosters for this age group are not recommended.
Source: NY Times