COVID updates: CDC advisory panel gives green light to Pfizer booster shots for children ages 5 to 11

The Independent Advisory Committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given the green light for Pfizer and BioNTech to give COVID-19 booster shots to children ages 5 to 11, paving the way for parents to get their children boosted as early as Friday Morning.

The board voted 11-1-1 to approve. It is expected that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will shortly give final approval to recommend the recordings.

“We have the tools we need to protect these people from serious illnesses and prevent more tragic deaths,” Walensky said in a short speech at the beginning of the meeting. “It’s important for us to anticipate where this pandemic is going and deploy the tools we have where they will have the greatest impact.”

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration approved use of the booster shots in younger children, to be used at least five months after completing their first round of vaccinations.

SEE ALSO: FDA Approves Pfizer COVID-19 Booster Shots for Children Ages 5 to 11

Children over 5 years of age were eligible for vaccination against COVID-19 in November, so the first children who were in line for their vaccination now had around six months of protection.

Pfizer asked the FDA in April to approve its booster vaccines for younger children after it presented data suggesting their vaccine was safe and elicited a strong immune response.

Vaccine efficacy after two doses against symptomatic infections “decreased rapidly in children and adolescents during Omicron,” said Dr. Ruth Link-Gelles, who leads the COVID-19 vaccine efficacy program for the CDC’s epidemiology task force, on Thursday. A booster dose in adolescents significantly improved efficacy – by up to 71% – in the weeks and months after receiving the third dose.

The efficacy of the vaccine against post-dose hospitalization for children aged 5 to 11 years ranged from about 68% to a median of 37 days after the second dose, while efficacy in adolescents was about 51%.

Analyzing the diminishing effectiveness of the vaccine for hospitalization in adolescents who received two doses, “some fading” was evident. However, Link-Gelles reported that there was not enough data to assess the diminishing effectiveness in children aged 5 to 11 or the effects of booster shots against hospitalization in children aged 12 to 15.

The benefits of the booster dose outweighed any known and potential risks, and a booster dose can help ensure continued protection against COVID-19, officials said, especially amid concerns about waning immunity.

SEE ALSO: Americans can now order third round of free at-home COVID-19 tests delivered by USPS

In January, the FDA approved use of a booster shot in youth ages 12 to 15, with 3.7 million youth having received a booster shot since then, according to the CDC.

But the urge to empower children comes amid an ongoing delay in vaccinating children with first shots, despite recent increases in COVID-19 infections and child hospitalizations.

Only 43% of eligible children ages 5 to 17 have been fully vaccinated to date, according to federal data. An even smaller proportion – less than 30% – of children aged 5 to 11 have been fully vaccinated and would therefore be eligible for a booster shot.

Overall, 25.7 million children over the age of 5 years – about half of those eligible – remain completely unvaccinated, including 18.2 million children aged 5 to 11 years.

More than 93,000 additional COVID-19 cases in children were reported last week, up about 76% from two weeks ago, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

The average number of children’s hospital admissions has increased 70% in the last month, according to CDC data, and on average nearly 180 virus-positive children are admitted to hospitals each day.

Copyright © 2022 ABC News Internet Ventures. COVID updates: CDC advisory panel gives green light to Pfizer booster shots for children ages 5 to 11

Dais Johnston

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