CDC Recommends Pfizer Booster for Children 5-11 Years

The CDC’s COVID-19 booster dose recommendation for children 5 and older comes a few days after the FDA’s authorization

This afternoon, the US Center for Disease Prevention and Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended children as young as 5 receive a Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose at least 5 months after their initial COVID-19 vaccination series.

This endorsement was anticipated, as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a third Pfizer-BioNTech shot for children 5-11 years old on Tuesday.

The recommendation now awaits approval from CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, MD. Walensky is expected to quickly sign off on this booster dose expansion, meaning children as young as 5 and at least 5 months after their primary COVID-19 vaccine series could get boosted as soon as this weekend.

Everyone 12 years and older is eligible for 1 booster dose to ensure protection against the highly infectious Omicron variant. Pfizer-BioNTech is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine and booster available for children under 18 years of age.

The experts say a booster will offer necessary protection to children, at a time when Omicron breakthrough infections are rising nationally once again. “While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the Omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized,” Robert M. Califf, MD, the FDA Commissioner.

Moderna is also looking to expand its vaccine to pediatric populations, having filed an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with the FDA last month to administer 2 doses of its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to children 6 months-2 years and 2-6 years.

Children 11 years and younger receive a third of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dosage given to adults. The most common side effects were injection site pain, redness, or swelling. Children also had similar side effects as adults to their booster, including fatigue, fever, or headache, all of which resolved in a few days.

Before making their recommendation, ACIP asked the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine representatives about myocarditis, a rare inflammation of the heart that is a potential side effect of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.

Of the 18.1 million children aged 5-11 who have gotten the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, there have been 20 confirmed cases of myocarditis and 1 death.

“The known and potential benefits of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age at least five months after completing a primary series outweigh its known and potential risks,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “A booster dose can help provide continued protection against COVID-19 in this and older age groups.”