JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved children ages 5 to 11 to get a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The FDA says healthy children in that age group can get a booster shot at least five months after they’ve received the primary two-dose series
Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must decide whether to formally recommend the booster for this age group. The CDC’s scientific advisers are scheduled to meet on Thursday.
The news of the FDA’s approval comes two months after researchers from the New York State Department of Health reported that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine offered little protection against infection in children ages 5 to 11.
News4JAX spoke with local epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Kantor, who says this booster shot is particularly important for children because Pfizer’s vaccine didn’t perform as well on children as scientists would have liked.
“This is particularly important because the performance of the Pfizer vaccine without a booster against omicron has not been overly impressive. So the idea of adding a booster, if that’s going to really bolster immunity more, makes a big difference,” Kantor said. “And hopefully, it’s getting parents very excited.”
Kantor says Pfizer’s vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for younger children. The vaccine is equivalent to one-third of the dose given to adults. Kantor says approving the booster is critical because children are often times asymptomatic.
“The key thing to realize, as you’re mentioning, is that it’s not just that it acts as a protection for the kids, it adds the level of protection for the families and the other people that kids are coming into contact with because, particularly if a kid is going to be asymptomatic, they don’t even know,” Kantor said. “They’re sick, but then they go on, they see grandma on their giving her hugs and kisses. Obviously, that’s something that could be concerning.”
But Kantor says parents are still hesitant to get their children vaccinated. Only 30% of children in the 5- to 11-year-old age group have had the initial two Pfizer doses since vaccinations opened to them in November.
There is proof that the vaccinations do indeed work in that age group. A CDC study conducted in April reveals that unvaccinated children were hospitalized at double the rate of vaccinated children during the beginning of the omicron wave.