The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday expanded access to the updated COVID-19 booster shot to children as young as 6 months old.
“More children now have the opportunity to update their protection against COVID-19 with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, and we encourage parents and caregivers of those eligible to consider doing so – especially as we head into the holidays and winter months where more time will be spent indoors,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement.
The FDA said that children 5 years old and younger who received two doses of Moderna’s vaccine more than two months ago are eligible for the company’s updated booster shot. Children 4 years old and younger who haven’t yet received the third dose in Pfizer’s three-shot program will receive its updated booster as their third dose. But children who have already received all three of Pfizer’s shots are not yet eligible for an updated booster. FDA said that data would be available in January.
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The Biden administration has been pushing the updated shots ahead of a potential coronavirus wave in the winter months and as hospitals are facing increasing pressure from COVID-19, flu and the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
“As this virus has changed, and immunity from previous COVID-19 vaccination wanes, the more people who keep up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, the more benefit there will be for individuals, families and public health by helping prevent severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths,” Califf continued.
But few people have received the shots – and even fewer children have rolled up their sleeves.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 13% of eligible Americans have received the updated shot. Only about 1.8 million children aged 5-17 have received the booster.
“Based on available data, the updated, bivalent vaccines are expected to provide increased protection against COVID-19,” FDA’s top vaccine official Peter Marks said in a statement.
The updated shots are designed to take on omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 as well as the original coronavirus strain. But those subvariants are declining in the U.S., while BQ.1.1, BQ.1 and XBB are on the rise. Those subvariants are expected to be better at evading prior immunity from shots or infection.