CDC, FDA release new kid-friendly COVID boosters

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The United States released last week updated boosters for kids aged 5 to 11 years, who have been reported to have a stronger response to omicron subvariants of COVID-19. The latest measure — approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration — comes as local Austin doctors and pharmacists predict a more intense flu season and an increased risk of pediatric respiratory illnesses.

“We really want to give ourselves the best opportunity to protect our kids from these respiratory viruses or illnesses that get worse and worse, especially in what we think is going to be a pretty bad flu season,” said Rannon Ching, a pharmacist – Tarrytown Pharmacy fee.

Children five years of age are eligible for the updated boosters as long as at least two months have passed since their last primary series dose or original booster injection. Approximately 40 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11 in Travis County have received their primary series, Austin Public Health officials told KXAN on Monday.

Ching said parental hesitancy about the vaccine may contribute to lower vaccination rates for children, along with delayed screenings during the pandemic. This comes as pediatric vaccination rates here in Texas continue to decline for other traditional protective vaccines, such as those against measles, mumps and rubella.

“I think with kids as well, we want to be very careful with our kids and make sure we’re doing everything right and doing things that are only going to help them,” he said.

Just as the updated adult COVID boosters were found to be more effective at preventing severe disease than the omicron subvariants, so are these child-friendly versions, Ching said. But he added that it is critical that children complete their baseline series before moving on to the updated booster shot.

“When you look at the way that [researchers] designed the clinical trials, the booster is intended to be an added protection,” Ching explained. “So when you look at the efficacy levels, they want you to really get that initial first and second dose because we have data on that and what that protection shows.”

Traditionally, COVID levels show an increase during the winter months. Coupled with predictions of a more severe flu season and increased cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Ching encouraged parents to complete their children’s primary series now so they can receive an updated booster shot in December.

He also noted that both the COVID and flu shots could be given at the same time to give children a double advantage over contracting more extreme cases.

“The COVID vaccinations are a really great way to protect yourself and prepare for the upcoming winter season,” he said.

Austin Public Health has information online about where to find a free vaccine near you.

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