The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine expert panel Thursday recommended kids 5-11 get a third shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as a booster five months after their last dose, which once adopted by the agency clears the way for pharmacies and health care providers to begin offering the shots.
The CDC is expected to adopt the panel’s recommendation, which comes two days after the Food and Drug Administration expanded authorization for the vaccine for children 5-11, formulated at a third of the dose of the vaccine for teens and adults. Local health providers say the shots will be available within days.
“We expect to begin offering boosters to ages 5-11 early next week, pending the CDC recommendation,” said Contra Costa Health Services spokesman Will Harper.
But will parents line their kids up for the shots? Kids 5-11 have the lowest rate of vaccination with the primary two-shot vaccine series, 29% nationally and around 60-73% in the Bay Area’s largest counties.
“We’ll probably see an uptick in demand when eligibility first expands with things leveling off after a couple of weeks,” Harper said. “Beyond that, we’ll have to wait and see. It’s important that everyone, including children, stay up to date on their COVID vaccinations, which are the best protection we have against severe disease.”
The CDC’s expert panel was asked to consider whether to tell parents that kids 5-11 “may” or “should” get the third shot. The panel voted 11-1 with one abstention to recommend they should get the booster, with the majority noting it’s consistent with their messaging for other age groups.
“I don’t think it’s helpful to have a ‘may’ recommendation for one group and a ‘should’ for another,” said Dr. Grace Lee, the panel’s chair and an associate chief medical officer for practice innovation at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Helen Talbot, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, was opposed and favored a “may” recommendation. She said that while the vaccines are “really amazing,” they “are not without potential side effects.” She also cited concern that boosters are aimed more at temporarily tamping down infections for a few months in a low-risk age group when it’s likely new vaccines will arrive in the fall.
“How sustainable is it for us to vaccinate the population every six months?” Talbot asked, adding that the priority for vaccination in this age group should be the “first round.”
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