FDA Clears Bivalent COVID Boosters for Kids 5 and Up

The CDC now has to sign off
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 12, 2022 10:15 AM CDT
FDA Clears Bivalent COVID Boosters for Kids 5 and Up
A Jackson, Miss., resident receives a Pfizer booster shot from a nurse at a vaccination site on Feb. 8.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

The US on Wednesday authorized updated COVID-19 boosters for children as young as 5, seeking to expand protection ahead of an expected winter wave. Tweaked boosters rolled out for Americans 12 and older last month, doses modified to target today's most common and contagious omicron relative. While there wasn't a big rush, federal health officials are urging that people seek the extra protection ahead of holiday gatherings. Now the FDA has given a green light for elementary school-age kids to get the updated booster doses, too—one made by Pfizer for 5- to 11-year-olds, and a version from rival Moderna for those as young as 6.

There's one more step before parents can bring their kids in for the new shot: The CDC, which recommends how vaccines are used, must sign off. Americans may be tired of repeated calls to get boosted against COVID-19, but experts say the updated shots have an advantage: They contain half the recipe that targeted the original coronavirus strain and half of the recipe that protects against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 omicron versions. "We want to have the best of both worlds," Pfizer's Dr. Bill Gruber, a pediatrician, told the AP. He hopes the updated shots will "reenergize interest in protecting children for the winter."

Only people who've gotten their initial vaccinations qualify for an updated booster. Less than a third of 5- to 11-year-olds have had their two primary doses and thus would qualify for the new booster. This age group will get kid-size doses of the updated booster, and they can receive it at least two months after their last dose. Pfizer said it could ship up to 6 million kid-size doses within a week of authorization. Until now, Moderna's updated booster was cleared only for adults. Wednesday's FDA action authorized the booster for teens as well as children as young as age 6. It will be several more months before regulators decide if the under-5 age group also needs a booster using the updated recipe.

(Read more COVID booster shots stories.)

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