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Children under 5 are now eligible for Omicron vaccines

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Luca Moore, 11 months, receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine as his mother, Dr. Danielle Smith, holds him at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, USA , June 22, 2022.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday approved omicron vaccines for children as young as 6 months old, giving pharmacies and doctors the green light to begin administering the shots.

Children aged 6 months to 5 years who received the two-dose Moderna primary series can now receive an omicron booster two months after their second dose.

Meanwhile, children aged 6 months to 4 years who complete their primary Pfizer series will receive the omicron vaccine as a third dose.

The CDC’s approval comes a day after the Food and Drug Administration gave its clearance. The CDC’s independent group of vaccine experts did not meet to discuss the available data before the agency gave the go-ahead.

Dr. Peter Marks, head of the FDA’s vaccines division, told parents in a statement Thursday that the agency carefully reviewed the data before authorizing vaccines for younger children.

“Vaccines remain the best defense against the most devastating consequences of disease caused by the currently circulating omicron variant, such as hospitalization and death,” Marks said. “Parents and caregivers can be assured that the FDA took great care in our review.”

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Covid infections and hospitalizations increase in the United States after the Thanksgiving holiday, as subvariants that evade immunity more easily have become dominant. During last winter’s omicron wave, hospitalizations for children 4 and under were five times higher than at the peak of the previous delta wave.

The vast majority of children ages 5 and under have not received a single dose of a Covid vaccine, according to the CDC. Some 95% of children are unvaccinated or have not completed their first round of vaccines, according to the agency.

In a statement Friday, the CDC said it was working with parents to improve confidence in vaccines. He encouraged parents to talk to their children’s doctors to stay up to date on their vaccines.

Omicron shots target both the BA.5 subvariant and the original strain of Covid. Data from Pfizer and Moderna indicate that they elicit a better immune response in adults than older vaccines, although smaller independent studies found they weren’t much better.

Scientists generally expect the injections to prevent hospitalizations, but probably won’t be enough to curb mild disease.

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