FDA Expands COVID Boosters To Younger Children

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken multiple actions to expand vaccine availability for children in an effort to combat the COVID-19 virus, including authorizing a booster dose for children. Two years into the pandemic and the world is once again experiencing another major surge in cases, this time driven by the Omicron variant. Omicron has a record number of mutations, compared with previous variants, with more than 30 of those mutations in the spike protein that helps it spread (via Scientific American).

As a result of these mutations, Omicron has proven itself far more effective at evading vaccine-induced immunity, according to SciTechDaily, as well as the immunity conferred from a previous infection. Even patients who received booster shots are still at risk of getting infected (via Reuters). Even more worrisome, child hospitalization rates have hit a new record as a result of Omicron (via Bloomberg).

Despite the fact they may not prevent an infection, vaccines and boosters have been shown to significantly reduce the chance of severe illness, hospitalization, and death (via the CDC), making them more important than ever in the face of this new variant.

The FDA's New Guidance

To further protect children, the FDA has authorized a number of additional measures for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA).

Children 12 and up can now receive a single Pfizer booster dose. Time between primary Pfizer vaccination and booster has been reduced to at least five months. A third primary dose (as opposed to the standard two doses) has been authorized for some immunocompromised children ages 5 through 11.

"Throughout the pandemic, as the virus that causes COVID-19 has continuously evolved, the need for the FDA to quickly adapt has meant using the best available science to make informed decisions with the health and safety of the American public in mind," said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. "With the current wave of the omicron variant, it's critical that we continue to take effective, life-saving preventative measures such as primary vaccination and boosters, mask wearing and social distancing in order to effectively fight COVID-19."