WASHINGTON — Federal regulators on Wednesday expanded access to updated coronavirus booster shots to include children as young as 5 years old, hoping to bolster protection against the now-dominant version of the virus.
The revised plan developed by Pfizer-BioNTech had previously been authorized for ages 12 and older, while Moderna’s updated booster was only available for ages 18 and older. The Food and Drug Administration’s action will expand access to Pfizer’s vaccine to children as young as 5 years old and Moderna’s vaccine to children 6 years of age and older.
“Since children have returned to in-person school and people are resuming their pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is an increased risk of exposure to the virus,” said Dr Peter Marks, the lead vaccine regulator. of the agency. While Covid-19 is generally less severe in children than in adults, he said, “more children have become ill with the disease and have been hospitalized” as the pandemic progressed.
The new boosters are allowed at least two months after a child has completed the initial series of two injections or received a booster dose. Regulators allowed injections for older age groups at the end of August, but much of the general population appears unaware or uninterested.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, estimated on Tuesday that 13 to 15 million Americans received updated vaccines over the weekend. Nearly 226 million people received a first round of vaccination and more than 110 million received at least one booster shot.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is expected to quickly approve the distribution of vaccines. Moderna’s updated plans would then be quickly available to children at tens of thousands of sites, while Pfizer’s plans will be available next week, federal officials said.
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