Just over 29 percent of US children in the age group have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to date.
An advisory panel to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has voted to recommend COVID-19 booster shots for children ages five to 11, at least five months after completing their primary vaccination course.
The committee voted Thursday 11-1 to recommend the boosters, with one doctor abstaining.
The advisors considered data from the CDC showing that the protection of two doses begins to wane over time and that boosters in older age groups improved efficacy against severe COVID-19 and hospitalizations.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has yet to approve the committee’s recommendation, but she signaled at the meeting that she would likely support the additional hits.
“We know that immunity declines over time and we need to do everything we can now to protect the most vulnerable,” Walensky said.
“It’s important for us to anticipate where this pandemic is moving and deploy the tools we have where they will have the most impact.”
The development comes amid uncertainty about how many parents will opt to have their children in that age group get a third dose.
According to CDC data, only more than 29 percent of U.S. children ages five to 11 are considered fully vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine. Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine. That represents the lowest vaccination coverage of all groups.
The vaccine is not yet licensed for children under five years of age.
The US government has been lobbying for eligible Americans for boosters in light of data showing immunity from the vaccine declines over time, and recently authorized a second booster for people age 50 and older.
Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, the only committee member who voted against recommending boosters for children on Thursday, argued that the focus should be on increasing the vaccination rate in the age group.
“Reinforcements are great once we’ve given everyone their first round,” he said.
On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Pfizer’s booster vaccine for children ages five to 11.
Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said booster shots in that age group would have limited effect on the pandemic, even with evidence that additional shots will protect against mild illness for three to six months.
“What is the purpose of this vaccine? Are we trying to protect ourselves against all symptomatic infection for a limited period of time? Or are we trying to protect against serious disease, in which case all the evidence is that we are preventing serious disease” with the two-dose vaccine regimen, Offit said.