US calls for 12-year-old COVID-19 boosters to fight Omicron

The US is urging everyone 12 years of age and older to receive a COVID-19 booster as soon as they are eligible, to help fight the highly contagious disease. omicron . mutation that is ripping the country apart.

The booster has been recommended for all Americans 16 and older, but on Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed an additional Pfizer shot for teenagers — those 12 and 12. up to age 15 – and reinforces the recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get the shot, too.

“It is vital that we protect our children and young people from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe illness,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in a statement late on Thursday night. Private.
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“This enhanced dose will provide optimal protection against COVID-19 and variant Omicron. I encourage all parents to update their children with the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations,” she said.

Read more: COVID-19 Vaccine Safe for Children 5-11 Years, CDC Data Show

Vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness from any type of COVID-19, including omicrons — what experts say is their most important benefit. But the latest mutation can bypass a vaccine’s protective layer to cause milder infections. Studies show that a booster dose at least temporarily increases antibodies against the virus to levels that offer the best chance of avoiding symptomatic infection, even from omicrons.

Earlier on Wednesday, the CDC’s independent scientific advisers grappled with whether boosters should be an option for young adolescents, who tend not to get sick like COVID-19 as an adult, or more strongly encouraged.

CDC adviser, Dr. Sarah Long at Drexel University, recommends that providing teens with a temporary jump in protection against infection is like playing whaling. But she says the extra footage is well-deserved to help repel the omicron mutant and protect kids from school absenteeism and other problems that come with even a very mild case of COVID-19.

More importantly, if a child with a mild infection spreads it to a more vulnerable parent or grandparent and then dies, the impact is “absolutely severe,” said Dr Camille Kotton of General Hospital Massachusetts said.

Dr. Jamie Loehr of Cayuga Family Medicine in Ithaca, New York agrees: “Evaluate this.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is the only option for American children of all ages. The CDC says about 13.5 million children ages 12 to 17 — slightly more than half of them — have received two shots of Pfizer. Boosters was opened to 16 and 17 year olds last month.

Read more: Families scramble to find COVID tests as schools confront Omicron

Wednesday’s decision means that the roughly 5 million teens who had their last hit in the spring are eligible for an immediate boost. New US guidelines say anyone who has had two doses of Pfizer vaccine and is eligible for a booster shot can get it five months after the last shot, instead of the six months previously recommended. .

But one committee member, Dr Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University, worries that such a strong recommendation for adolescent boosters will distract the focus of vaccinations on the arms of those unvaccinated child.

Advisors have seen US data clearly show that symptomatic COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions are 7 to 11 times higher in unvaccinated adolescents than in those who have been vaccinated. strains.

While children tend to have less severe illness from COVID-19 than adults, child hospitalizations are increasing in the omicron wave – the majority of them are unvaccinated.

Read more: Children in the US are hospitalized with COVID-19 in near-record numbers

In the public comment section of Wednesday’s meeting, Texas Children’s Hospital Dr. Julie Boom said an enhanced recommendation for teens “can’t come anytime soon.”

The main safety question for teenagers is a rare side effect called myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation that is seen mainly in younger men and teenage boys getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The majority of cases are mild – much milder than the level of heart inflammation that COVID-19 can cause – and they seem to peak in older adolescents, those 16 and 17 years old.

The FDA determined a safety booster dose for adolescents rather than adults based primarily on data from 6,300 children 12 to 15 years of age in Israel who received a booster dose of Pfizer 5 months after the second dose. two. Israeli officials said on Wednesday that they had seen two mild cases of myocarditis in this age group after giving in an additional 40,000 people.

Earlier this week, FDA vaccine executive director Dr. Peter Marks said side effects occur in about 1 in 10,000 men and boys ages 16 to 30 after the second shot. But he said the third dose appeared to be less risky, about a third, possibly because there was more time before the booster shot than between the first two injections. US calls for 12-year-old COVID-19 boosters to fight Omicron

Aila Slisco

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