January 12, 2022

In the News: US Urges COVID Boosters Starting at Age 12 to Fight Omicron

Covid vaccines offer strong protection against serious illness across variants, including Omicron. Still, according to a recent Associated Press article, the CDC has recommended boosters for adults and teens over 16 years of age to help avoid symptomatic infection and severe disease complications. On January 5, the CDC sought to extend protection levels and endorsed a booster shot for those 12- to 15-years old, too.

The recommendation is for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. According to its own data, CDC estimates about 13.5 million children ages 12-17 have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Last week’s move opens an additional five million children to the enhanced protection boosters provide. The meeting was not without discussion as panelists debated what message the booster announcement may send. Some worried it may distract from getting more kids their initial doses while others saw the move as necessary to protect teens as much as possible. [Read More]

Sarah Long, PIDS member and CDC adviser featured in the article, states the extra shot is worth it to help push back Omicron and shield kids from the missed school and other problems that come with even a very mild case of COVID-19.

Children tend to suffer less serious illness from COVID-19 than adults, though hospitalizations are rising sharply due to Omicron – the vast majority of recent hospitalizations are unvaccinated. The more teens who are vaccinated and boosted, the greater protection offered to them and to vulnerable populations in their lives who may be more susceptible to Covid complications, whether due to being too young to receive the vaccine, compromised immunity, or advanced age.

The decision on booster dose safety for younger teens was based largely on data from 6,300 12- to 15-year-olds in Israel who got a Pfizer booster five months after their second dose. Israeli officials said they’ve seen two cases of mild myocarditis in this age group after administering 40,000 boosters. The CDC said this side effect occurs in about 1 in 10,000 men and boys ages 16 to 30 after their second shot. A third dose appears less risky, by about a third, probably because more time has passed before the booster than between the first two shots.

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