US FDA authorises updated booster for children aged 5 and older

Updated booster shot is intended to bolster protection for children as restrictions in the US ease, schools resume in-person learning.

Child getting covid shot
An eight-year-old receives a booster vaccine in the US in May. The FDA's decision will make bivalent boosters available for children as young as five [File: Hannah Beier/Reuters]

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a government health agency, has announced that it has approved booster shots for children aged five and up to enhance protections against the COVID-19 virus.

The FDA stated on Wednesday that the agency had updated the emergency use authorisations for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent to approve their use as a single booster dose in younger age groups.

The booster can be administered two months after the completion of primary or booster vaccination as a single shot.

“Since children have gone back to school in person and people are resuming pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is the potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” the agency said in a news release. “Vaccination remains the most effective measure to prevent the severe consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.”

While children have been less impacted by COVID-19 than adults, experts are encouraging parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated as the US begins a new school year. While policies meant to stem the spread of the virus have been largely relaxed in the US, vaccination remains a key component of protection against COVID-19.

The FDA approved COVID-19 vaccinations for children five and below in June, opening the door for the immunisation of young children against the virus that has killed more than one million people in the US but has been less severe among children.

In June, US President Joe Biden called the availability of vaccinations for children a “relief” for parents.

As public concerns about the pandemic have started to subside, the FDA has warned that vaccinations are still an important form of protection, especially with the rise of new variants of the virus. The FDA approved a booster shot targeting the Omicron variant of the virus in late August.

“While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, as the various waves of COVID-19 have occurred, more children have gotten sick with the disease and have been hospitalized,” the agency said on Wednesday.

“Children may also experience long-term effects, even following initially mild disease. We encourage parents to consider primary vaccination for children and follow-up with an updated booster dose when eligible.”

Source: Al Jazeera