Walensky OKs panel’s recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old get COVID-19 booster

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory panel met Thursday to debate whether the CDC should follow the Food and Drug Administration’s lead and approve COVID-19 booster shots for children between the ages of 5 and 11.

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The Independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted Thursday afternoon on whether children will be eligible for an additional vaccine.

Update 12:24 a.m. EDT May 20: Rachelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, signed off on the advisory panel’s recommendation later Thursday.

“Today, I endorsed ACIP’s vote to expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses,” Walensky said in a statement. Children 5 through 11 should receive a booster dose at least 5 months after their primary series. Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups, leaving them vulnerable to serious illness. With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected. I encourage parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”

Update 3:47 p.m. EDT May 19: The ACIP voted to approve the measure that a single Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine booster should be recommended for children 5 to 11 years old at least 5 months after the primary series of vaccinations have been completed.

The vote was 11 yes, one no, and one person abstaining.

The measure still needs to be approved by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who is expected to sign off on it, ABC News reported.

Original report: Earlier this week, the FDA expanded the eligibility for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine booster for children 5 to 11 years old at least five months after their primary series was completed, CNN reported.

>>Related: FDA authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shot for 5- to 11-year-olds

Pfizer had asked for an emergency use authorization for the booster shots for children at the end of April after clinical trials showed Omicron-fighting antibodies increased 36 times after the booster was given to children.

The study was conducted on 4,500 children in the age group.

>>Related: Pfizer says COVID-19 booster raises antibodies for kids aged 5 to 11

The American Academy of Pediatrics said that nearly 13.2 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Of those cases, 5.3 million were in 2022, but there are probably more since testing has slowed down across much of the U.S., the AAP said, according to CNN.

>>Related: 3rd round of free rapid COVID-19 tests available from US government

About 30% of children between ages 5 and 11 have received the first two Pfizer shots since they were made eligible in November, The Associated Press reported.

The FDA’s approval for the booster for that age group came before an emergency use authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 5. Both Moderna and Pfizer had asked for an EUA for their vaccine for young children, but the evaluation on theirrequests are not scheduled until next month, the AP reported.