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 begun to administer extra vaccine doses as a first line defense against the Omicron variant, which is contagious. For Americans over 12 years of age who have not received their second dose of vaccine, Pfizer BioNTech boosters can be used.
After a meeting on Wednesday, an advisory panel recommended the changes. They were approved by Dr. Rochelle Wilensky, the C.D.C. Director, on Wednesday night. Adolescents between 12 and 15 years old may be eligible to receive booster shots immediately. Adolescents 16 years and older are already allowed to receive booster shots. However, the C.D.C. approved them for this Wednesday. The recommendation was strengthened by the panel.
The advisory panel’s decision follows a similar move made earlier in the week by the Food and Drug Administration. They authorized Pfizer BioNtech boosters for adolescents and shortened the recommended time between the initial vaccination and the booster.
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 started giving boosters to teenagers aged 12-15 in June. It also closely tracks side effects. Two cases of myocarditis were identified by the health ministry in Israel. This was among 41,600 adolescents 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 in 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 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, many members of the committee were concerned that only a few younger children get vaccinated. They suggested it was crucial to increase vaccination rates and to use other prevention strategies such as 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 under 5 years old 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. The C.D.C. has stated that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are both strongly preferred over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For children aged 5-11 years, only the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is approved; boosters are not recommended.
Source: NY Times