Children ages 12-15 are likely the next group to be eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 booster shot. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to expand its current authorization for a third injection to ward off the coronavirus soon reports The New York Times.
In addition to adding the 12-15-year-olds to the current emergency use authorization, officials are also thought to be discussing changing the wait time between the initial 2-dose vaccination and a booster from six months to five. They are also considering allowing children, ages 5-11, with immune deficiencies to have a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The main factor behind the decision to expand eligibility is twofold. First, the COVID-19 vaccination immunity wanes, and everyone needs more protection against the virus and its mutations. Second, schools are reopening after the winter holidays, and infections spread rapidly among children in groups; youngsters are less likely to practice social distancing and hand washing when not directly supervised.
COVID-19 infection rates among children in the United States are extremely high and increasing, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Almost 199,000 cases were reported for the week ending Dec. 23, 2021. That is a 50% increase over weekly cases in December. Since the first week that children returned to school in September, there have been over 2.5 million additional child cases.
Since the onset of the pandemic, over 7.5 million U.S. children tested positive, or 1 in every 10. Cases among youngsters represented 17.4% of all reported cases during the first 20 months of the pandemic. But the percentage increased to 20.8% of cases for the week ending last Saturday, which is significant considering that children under the age of 18 only make up 22.2% of the United States population, according to the AAP.
As a result of the increased cases among children, it is likely the FDA will give authorization for 12-15-year-olds to have the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shot. Moreover, immunocompromised children are at a greater risk of complications arising from a COVID infection. Therefore, the FDA will likely add children ages 5-11 with autoimmune deficiencies to the EAU approval for a third dose.
While the Delta variant is still infecting Americans, the latest COVID-19 strain, Omicron appears to be the most contagious to date. Its mutations will allow it to evade some of the protection provided by the vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech booster seems to provide a high level of protection against Omicron.
The manufacturers of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus said their laboratory tests results show the booster provides neutralizing antibodies against Omicron when compared with results seen against the original COVID-19 and other variants after the initial 2-dose vaccination.
Since children are not mature enough to make sure they are following the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control”s (CDC) safety protocols without direct supervision, it makes sense for the FDA to update its booster authorization to include those ages 12-15 and autoimmune compromised 5-11-year-olds.
The FDA has not released confirmation of their evaluator panel’s data.
UPDATE: On January 3, the FDA approved the booster shot for children 12-15 years of age.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
NBC News: FDA expected to authorize Pfizer booster shot for children 12 to 15; by Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
The New York Times: F.D.A. Plans to Allow 12- to 15-Year-Olds to Receive Pfizer Boosters; by Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere
American Academy of Pediatrics: Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report
NBC News: Pfizer says booster shot of its vaccine protects against omicron variant; by Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
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