Despite Recommendations, Most 5-11-Year-Olds Not Eligible for COVID Booster
Public health officials now are urging COVID-19 booster vaccines for children 5-11, but pharmacists shouldn’t expect a rush to get it because the majority of that cohort isn’t eligible. Why? Fewer than a third have completed their initial 2-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Here are more details.
ATLANTA – Pharmacies are unlikely to get an onslaught of youngers seeking a COVID-19 booster shot after endorsement by the director of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Today, I endorsed ACIP’s vote to expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses. Children 5 through 11 should receive a booster dose at least 5 months after their primary series,” CDC Director. Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, said May 19.
“With cases increasing, it is important that all people have the protection they need, which is why, today, CDC has also strengthened another booster recommendation,” Walensky emphasized, adding that those 50 and older and those who are 12 and older and immunocompromised should get a second booster dose.
But Walensky conceded that vaccination “with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness.”
A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics pointed out that, as of May 18, only 28% of children in that age group had completed the initial 2-dose vaccination series. “About 18.4 million children 5-11 had yet to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose,” the AAP notes. “This past week about 34,000 received their first vaccine dose.”
In addition, the CDC reported in April that the majority of children in the 5-11 age group have already been infected at least once with COVID-19. It noted that, seroprevalence increased from 44.2% (95% CI = 42.8–45.8) to 75.2% (95% CI = 73.6–76.8) among children aged 0–11 years and from 45.6% (95% CI = 44.4–46.9) to 74.2% (95% CI = 72.8–75.5) among persons aged 12–17 years as of February.
The CDC has repeatedly urged vaccination for children who have been infected, explaining that offer the most complete protection.
The CDC expanded eligibility for a booster shot following a meeting of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Public health officials now recommend that children ages 5 through 11 years should receive a booster shot 5 months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series.
“Since the pandemic began, more than 4.8 million children ages 5 through 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 15,000 have been hospitalized and, tragically, over 180 have died,” the agency notes in a press release. “As cases increase across the country, a booster dose will safely help restore and enhance protection against severe disease.”
Those actions followed a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to amend the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, authorizing its use as a single booster dose for children 5 to 11 years of age at least five months after completion of a primary series with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
“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, MD. “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. 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.”