The United States is urging everyone 12 years of age and older to receive a COVID-19 booster as soon as they are eligible, to help fight the extremely contagious disease. omicron . mutation that is ripping the country apart.
Boosters have been recommended for all Americans 16 years of age and older, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday endorsed an additional Pfizer shot for young teens — those who ages 12 to 15 — and reinforces the recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get the shot, too.
“It is vital that we protect our children and young people from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe illness,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in a statement late on Thursday night. Private.
“This enhanced dose will provide optimal protection against COVID-19 and variant Omicron. I encourage all parents to update their children with the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations,” she said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the CDC’s independent scientific advisers grappled with whether boosters should be an option for younger adolescents, who tend not to get sick like COVID-19 as an adult, or more strongly encouraged.
CDC advisor Dr. Sarah Long, of Drexel University, recommends that providing teenagers with a temporary jump in protection against infections is like playing whaling. But she says the extra footage is worth it to help repel the omicron mutant and protect kids from the missed school and other problems that come with a very mild case of COVID-19.
More importantly, if a child with a mild infection spreads to a more vulnerable parent or grandparent and then dies, the impact is “absolutely severe,” said Dr. Camille Kotton of Massachusetts General Hospital said.
Dr. Jamie Loehr of Cayuga Family Medicine in Ithaca, New York agrees: “Evaluate this.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is the only option for American children of all ages. The CDC says about 13.5 million children ages 12 to 17 — slightly more than half of them — have received two shots of Pfizer. Boosters was opened to 16 and 17 year olds last month.
Wednesday’s decision means that the roughly 5 million teens who had their last hit in the spring are eligible for an immediate boost. New US guidelines say anyone who has had two doses of Pfizer vaccine and is eligible for a booster shot can get it five months after the last shot, instead of the six months previously recommended. .
However, one committee member, Dr Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University, worries that such a strong recommendation for adolescent boosters will distract from getting the vaccine into the arms of unvaccinated children.
The advisors have seen US data make it clear that symptomatic COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions are 7 to 11 times higher in unvaccinated adolescents than in those who have been vaccinated. strains.
While children tend to have less severe illness from COVID-19 than adults, child hospitalizations are increasing in the omicron wave — the majority of them unvaccinated.
A key safety question for teenagers is a rare side effect called myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation that is seen mainly in young men and teenagers receiving Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The majority of cases are mild – much milder than the degree of heart inflammation that COVID-19 can cause – and they seem to peak in older adolescents, those 16 and 17 years old.
The FDA determined a safety booster dose for adolescents rather than adults based primarily on data from 6,300 children 12 to 15 years of age in Israel who received a booster dose of Pfizer 5 months after the second dose. two. Israeli officials said on Wednesday that they had seen two mild cases of myocarditis in this age group after giving in an additional 40,000 people.
Earlier this week, FDA vaccine executive director Dr. Peter Marks said side effects occur in about 1 in 10,000 men and boys ages 16 to 30 after the second shot. But he said the third dose appeared to be less risky, about a third, possibly because there was more time before the booster shot than between the first two injections.