With COVID-19 infections on the rise, you may be wondering if and when your child is eligible for a booster vaccination.
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Currently, children 16 and older can get a booster vaccination, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are collecting data on booster vaccinations for people under the age of 16.
So what can you do in the meantime to keep your child safe? Pediatrician Kimberly Giuliano, MD, explained.
When will boosters be available?
Whether or not to recommend a refresher for anyone under the age of 16, the FDA and CDC will turn to the data. Dr. Giuliano says the schedule for announcing a recommendation is unknown.
“The FDA and CDC are looking for evidence of decreased immunity to the vaccine over time,” said Dr. Giuliano. “You measure this in two different ways. First they look through groundbreaking cases of COVID-19 infection in vaccinated patients. And the other piece of information they’re looking at is their antibody levels over time. “
Children’s immune systems are stronger than adults, says Dr. Giuliano. This is thanks to the natural development of their immune system.
“The youngest children who are currently receiving their vaccines can get an adequate immune response at a much lower dose because their bodies respond better about that, “says Dr. Giuliano.
There have been reports from parents trying to get boosters for their younger children before they were approved. But it’s important to wait for the FDA and CDC to approve boosters for children under 16, says Dr. Giuliano.
“It is important that we have the data so that we know that it is needed. We want medical interventions, be it a vaccine or a drug or an operation, only if they are beneficial, ”says Dr. Giuliano. “If we give ourselves the time to look at the data, we can understand how useful this booster could be.”
It is also important to take the time to know whether the extra doses are safe.
“From the data we have so far, we know that the first two doses of the vaccine are very safe for children and adolescents. Without looking at the data, we don’t know how safe a third dose would be, ”notes Dr. Giuliano. “So before we allow boosters to be used, we want to make sure that the safety and benefits of the vaccine are both there, and that the benefits outweigh the risks.”
What to do to protect children in the meantime
The best way to make sure your child is protected is to get them vaccinated. Children aged 5 to 11 can now receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have now given vaccines to billions of people around the world. Millions of people in the United States and children are included in those numbers, ”says Dr. Giuliano. “We have very robust surveillance systems that have shown us that the current recommended doses of two vaccines for children under 16 and three doses for children 16 and older are very, very safe.”
There is though Side effects That can happen with any of the vaccines, says Dr. Giuliano that they are mild and less common than complications from COVID-19 infection itself.
And with new variants such as Delta and omikron, emphasizes Dr. Giuliano, how important it is to have a booster dose if you are 16 or older and at least six months have passed since your last dose.
“Patients who received a booster dose have a much higher level of protection than those who received only two doses,” says Dr. Giuliano. “For those eligible children 16 and older, I would strongly recommend getting a booster vaccination once this six-month interval has expired as we know COVID-19 rates are really skyrocketing now.”
Even if you and your child are vaccinated, it is still important to follow the recommended safety measures.
“We all need to continue to practice the safety measures we have learned since the beginning of the pandemic: wash hands well, wear a mask, limit exposure to large crowds,” says Dr. Giuliano. “And most importantly, if you are sick, stay home so you don’t pass any diseases, whether it’s COVID-19 or any other respiratory disease, to other people.”