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Omicron Covid boosters for kids are weeks away

New omicron-specific Covid boosters for children ages 5 to 11 are “just weeks away,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief.

On Tuesday, Dr. Peter Marks said at an event with the Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project that he was “confident” that the FDA will soon authorize new vaccines for this age group, noting that manufacturers of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are in the works. to submit the necessary data.

Marks added that a clearance for the youngest age group – children under 5 – is still “a few months away”.

If the FDA allows new recalls in the coming weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a vaccine planning guide released Tuesday that it plans to recommend the vaccines for some children in early to mid-October. .

The CDC expects Pfizer’s redesigned booster to be aimed at kids ages 5 to 11, and Moderna to be aimed at kids ages 6 to 17.

The new boosters are bivalent, meaning they target the original strain of Covid and the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron.

Federal health officials say the shots will serve as a much-needed extra layer of protection during the fall and winter months, when immunity to previous vaccines wanes and people spend more time indoors where the virus can spread more easily.

Currently, children aged 5 to 11 can only receive Covid vaccines for their primary series and a single monovalent booster dose from Pfizer. If new bivalent boosters receive FDA and CDC approval, monovalent boosters may no longer be allowed for the age group, according to the CDC’s planning guide.

Here’s what else you need to know

Marks notes that many children aged 5 to 11 are still completing their series of primary Covid vaccinations – and will likely need to do so to be eligible for updated boosters.

This is the case for adults: You are only eligible for the new vaccines if you have completed your series of primary vaccinations and have at least two months left after your last dose of any Covid vaccine, according to the CDC. .

According to data released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics, only about 31% of American children — or 8.7 million — in this age group have completed their two-dose primary vaccination series.

Children under 5 have similar low uptake: only 8% of children 6 months to 4 years have received at least one dose of a primary series vaccine, according to AAP data.

That’s why “it’s a good idea to think about having your child vaccinated against Covid-19”, according to Marks. “Enough children have received these vaccines now to know that they are safe, that they work.”

Dr. Sarah Meyer, chief medical officer of the CDC’s Division of Immunization Services, also spoke at Tuesday’s event alongside Marks. She stressed that parents should not wait to get their children boosted: if a child is eligible for the existing booster shots allowed for their age group, they should get it now.

“We want to encourage everyone to stay up to date on their vaccines, including children, because you never know when… you might be exposed or when you might get sick,” Meyer said shortly after Marks’ speech. . “We know children are getting sick. They are going to hospital and unfortunately there are children who have died from Covid.”

Just over 60,000 Covid cases in children were reported in the week ending September 15, representing about 18.5% of weekly reported cases in the United States, according to the AAP. .

From 2020 to 2022, 1,282 children aged 17 and under died from Covid, according to the latest CDC data.

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