Experts Update Recommendations on COVID-19 Booster Doses and Review Latest Vaccine Safety Data

by Vaccinate Your Family

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been several changes to the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations. This week, the CDC updated their booster and third dose recommendations for Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, including a new recommendation for boosters for children 12-15 years 

The vaccines are still our BEST defense against COVID, including the Omicron and Delta variants. Shortening the length of time between the completion of the primary COVID vaccination series and the booster dose may help with waning immunity. The very fast spread of the Omicron variant across the U.S. and around the world adds urgency to the need for both primary and booster doses.  

If you have questions about how the COVID-19 vaccines work, vaccine safety or availability, check out COVID-19 FAQ on our website. 

Here is a summary of CDC’s current COVID-19 vaccine and booster recommendations: 
  • Children between 12 and 15 years old who received two doses of Pfizer vaccine at least 5 months ago, are now recommended to get a Pfizer vaccine booster dose. (Children 16-17 years were already recommended to get a booster dose.)  
  • Everyone 12 years or older who got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for their primary vaccination series, only have to wait 5 months after their second dose before getting a booster dose. (The CDC shortened the time from 6 months to 5 months).  
  • Everyone 18 years or older who got the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine for their primary dose, should wait 2 months after their primary dose before getting a booster dose. (In most situations, Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are preferred over the J&J COVID-19 vaccine for primary and booster vaccination.) 
  • Children between 5 and 11 years old who are moderately to severely immunocompromised* should get a third primary dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least 28 days after their second COVID vaccine dose. (This is the same as the recommendation for immunocompromised people 12 years and older.)  
  • Everyone 12 years and older who is moderately to severely immunocompromised and received a third primary dose of vaccine, should ALSO get a booster dose 5 months after their third primary shot. 
    • Children 5-11 years old are not recommended to get a booster dose at this time. This may change so keep checking VYF’s website for the latest information at COVID-19 FAQ. 
These updates are reflected in our handy booster chart: 

Experts Review the Latest COVID Vaccine Effectiveness and Safety Data in Children

During CDC’s advisory committee’s latest meeting on January 5, experts took a close look at the latest vaccine effectiveness and safety data for kids and teens (12-15 years old) before recommending 12–15-year-olds get a booster dose. Here’s what we’ve learned:  

  • A 2-dose primary series of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children 12-15 years has been shown to provide protection against COVID-19 symptomatic infection, hospitalization, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children (MIS-C) and death. (MIS-C is a serious and life-threatening condition caused by COVID-19 infection in children.) 
  • Between July and November of 2021, unvaccinated 12-17 year-olds had a 7x higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and an 11x higher risk of being hospitalized than vaccinated children in the same age group 
  • Another study found that 97 of 102 children hospitalized with MIS-C were unvaccinated. None of the five vaccinated children hospitalized for MIS-C required life support compared to 38 of the 97 unvaccinated children with MIS-C 
  • While COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide strong protection against severe illness, MIS-C, hospitalization and death, there has been some decreased effectiveness against COVID infection due to a combination of waning immunity and the new Omicron variant.  
  • Booster doses increase the vaccine effectiveness against the Omicron variant by bringing up the level of protection against infection and increasing the already-strong protection against severe illness and death.  
  • For moderately and severely immunocompromised people, a third dose in the primary series of COVID-19 vaccine is very important as doctors are seeing life-threatening disease in people who are immunocompromised and who get COVID-19 illness. 
The latest safety data is reassuring. 
  • ACIP reviewed real-life Pfizer booster dose data from Israel (as of December 15). Israel has been giving booster doses of COVID to children 12+ years old. Israel’s data shows that rates of myocarditis were lower after a COVID booster dose than after the second dose of vaccine.  
  • Among over 6,000 children between 12-15 years old who received a booster dose in Israel, there were no reported cases of myocarditis.  
  • In the U.S., data from three U.S. safety monitoring systems (v-safe, VAERS and VSD) was carefully reviewed and showed that the myocarditis rates among 12–15-year-olds who received their primary COVID vaccine series were lower than myocarditis rates among vaccinated 16-17year-olds.  

While we understand that some parents are concerned about the potential unknown long-term side effects of COVID vaccines, it is important to know that millions of people in the U.S., including children 5 years and older, have safely received these vaccines, and the vaccinations are undergoing the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. The benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to show that they outweigh the risks of getting sick with COVID. Don’t wait to get up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations!  

If you have questions about how the COVID-19 vaccines work, vaccine safety or availability, check out COVID-19 FAQ on our website. 

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