A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee Thursday recommended the Pfizer COVID vaccine booster for children ages 5-11.
The booster was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.
“Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.
“With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected,” Dr. Walensky told the Washington Post Thursday.
The News-Press asked Dr. Henning Ansorg of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department if he had any safety concerns with the booster shot for young children.
“No, it makes a lot of sense,” the county public health officer said Thursday. “What we have seen during omicron is that more children have to be hospitalized for COVID. In this age group, there were quite a number of admissions to the hospital.
“Of those hospitalized, the kids who were unvaccinated were double the number of vaccinated kids, so that is pretty significant,” he said. “The FDA authorized this because with omicron, the immunity gained by the second shot of the vaccine was waning faster than in other age groups.
“So it is important that they get the new shot, as the virus has created new versions of itself to bypass the immune system,” Dr. Ansorg told the News-Press. “ In the future, I hope we get an updated version of the vaccine.”
Dr. Ansorg explained the children’s dose is smaller than the adult dose.
There is also medication now available to treat COVID-19, but that is currently only approved for ages 12 and up.
“While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer term effects, even following initially mild disease,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf.
“The FDA is authorizing the use of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age to provide continued protection against COVID-19,” Dr. Califf said. “Vaccination continues to be the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 and its severe consequences, and it is safe.
“If your child is eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and has not yet received their primary series, getting them vaccinated can help protect them from the potentially severe consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death,” Dr. Califf said.
Dr. Ansorg said the vaccine and the booster will help to build immunity in children and reduce hospitalizations.
“The side effects are the same as after the first and second shots,” he said.
“It is becoming very obvious that the COVID vaccine we have right now requires three shots,” Dr. Ansorg told the News-Press.
“The official CDC recommendation will prompt pediatricians and family doctors to recommend the third shot. We are anticipating the FDA to meet in early June to discuss safety and efficacy of the third shot for children under five,” said Dr. Ansorg.
And he said people in high-risk categories such as being 60 and older or having underlying health conditions should get a second booster shot, which means a total of four shots including the two initial doses for the vaccine.