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CDC’s vaccine advisors recommend boosters for younger teens

The United States is urging all people 12 and older to receive a COVID-19 booster as soon as they are eligible to help fight the highly contagious Omicron variant that is spreading across the country.

Boosters were previously encouraged for American adults, and they’ve been available for ages 16 and 17 since last month. But on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an additional injection of Pfizer for young children – those 12 to 15 years old – and reinforced their recommendation that 16 and 17 year olds also get a third shot.

“It is essential that we protect our children and adolescents from infection with COVID-19 and the complications of serious illness. Dr Rochelle Walenskysaid the CDC director in A declaration.

“This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant,” she said. “I encourage all parents to keep their children informed of the CDC’s recommendations on the COVID-19 vaccine. “

Vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illnesses caused by any variant of the coronavirus, including Omicron – what experts say is their most important benefit. But the newer strain appears to be more adept at breaking through a protective layer of vaccines to cause milder infections. Studies show that a booster dose at least temporarily increases anti-virus antibodies to levels that offer the best chance of avoiding COVID-19.

Earlier on Wednesday, independent scientific advisers at the CDC questioned whether a recall should be an option for younger teens – who tend not to get as sick from COVID-19 as adults – and, if so, whether it should be more highly recommended. By a vote of 13 to 1, the panel voted in favor of encouraging the younger group to receive the third dose.

Giving teens a booster for a temporary jump in protection is like playing a game of Whack-a-mole, warned Dr Sarah Long from Drexel University, a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. But she said the extra blow was worth it to help fend off the Omicron variant and protect children from missed school and other issues that accompany even a very mild case of COVID-19.

More importantly, if a child with a mild infection passes it on to a more vulnerable parent or grandparent who then dies, the impact “is absolutely overwhelming,” said a panel member. Dr Camille Kottoninfectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Let’s drop this one,” agreed Dr Jamie Loehr of Cayuga Family Medicine in Ithaca, NY

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is the only option for American children of any age. The CDC says about 13.5 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 – just over half of that age group – have received two doses. Recalls were opened to 16 and 17 year olds last month.

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Wednesday’s decision means that about 5 million young teens who received their last injection in the spring or early summer are immediately eligible for a booster. The new U.S. guidelines say anyone who has received two doses of Pfizer and is eligible for a booster can get it five months after their second injection, instead of the previously recommended six months.

A member of the committee, Dr Helen Keipp Talbot at Vanderbilt University, was concerned that a strong recommendation for adolescent booster shots might hijack the work of vaccinating children who have not been vaccinated at all.

Counselors have received data from the United States clearly indicating that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are between seven and 11 times higher among unvaccinated adolescents than among vaccinated ones.

Although children tend to suffer from less severe illnesses from COVID-19 than adults, child hospitalizations are increasing during the Omicron wave, mainly among the unvaccinated.

During the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, Dr Julie Boom of Texas Children’s Hospital said a recall recommendation for young teens “can’t come soon enough.”

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday cleared an additional Pfizer injection for children between the ages of 12 and 15. The FDA has ruled that a booster dose is as safe for the youngest as it is for the elderly, based largely on data from 6,300 12 to 15 year olds in Israel who received a Pfizer five booster. months after their second dose.

The main safety issue for adolescents is a rare side effect called myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation seen primarily in younger men and adolescents after being vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The vast majority of cases are mild – far milder than the heart inflammation COVID-19 can cause – and they seem to peak in older teens, those aged 16 and 17.

FDA Chief Vaccine Officer Dr Peter Marks said the side effect occurs in about 1 in 10,000 men and boys aged 16 to 30 after their second injection. But he said a third dose seems less risky, by about a third, probably because more time has passed before the booster than between the first two injections.



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