The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that children ages five to 11 get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite a top expert having warned there is ‘no evidence’ that they need one.
‘Today, I endorsed ACIP’s vote to expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses,’ CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced Thursday. ‘Children ages 5-11 should receive a booster dose at least 5 months after their primary series.’
The booster shot endorsement comes as Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, told DailyMail.com there were no studies showing the extra jab lowered children’s risk of symptomatic infection. Youngster’s are already at very low risk of severe disease and death, multiple data sources and studies find.
She added that it was ‘not clear’ whether any benefit from the jab outweighed the risks for the age group, given the rare side-effect myocarditis — or heart inflammation — which is more likely among young boys.
Dr. Paul Offit, who sits on a jabs advisory panel, told DailyMail.com it was likely that boosting the age group would only improve their protection from mild illness for three to six months.
The CDC on Thursday also recommended immunocompromised individuals ages 12 and older, as well as all individuals over 50, receive a second second booster shot four months after their first booster dose.
‘If you’re eligible, I strongly encourage you to get a second booster,’ Walensky said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that children ages five to 11 get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, despite a top expert having warned there is ‘no evidence’ that they need one
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced the recommendation on Thursday evening
Dr. Monica Gandhi (left), an infectious diseases expert at the University of California, San Francisco, said there was no evidence that the extra jabs would lower children’s risk of symptomatic Covid infection. Dr Paul Offit, from the FDA’s vaccines advisory panel, said the top-up shots would likely only improve immunity from mild infection
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday green-lighted COVID booster shots for the five to 11 age group without consulting its usual panel of experts.
The comes as U.S. daily Covid cases eclipsed 100,000 a day on average for the first time since late-February, a 17 percent jump over the past week. Case figures have also doubled over the last two weeks in 11 states, according to official data.
Covid deaths have dropped, 10 percent compared to last week to about 339 a day. Hospital admissions have ticked up by just under a fifth to 3,100 a day nationwide, but this is still less than 15 percent of the peak in early January.
Hospital figures are also generally inaccurate, as many of those patients are actually suffering a mild of asymptomatic case of the virus and just testing positive while present.
When announcing the CDC’s booster recommendation Thursday, Walensky also encouraged unvaccinated parents of children ages five to 11 to get their jabs.
‘Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness,’ she said in a statement. ‘With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected.’
‘I encourage parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations,’ Walensky added, noting that with coronavirus cases rising it is ‘important that all people have the protection they need.’
U.S. daily Covid cases surged through 100,000 a day on average Thursday for the first time since February, while infections doubled in two weeks across 11 states. In Nebraska they are quadrupling every 14 days
But deaths from the virus fell 10 percent on average compared to a week ago to about 339 a day. Hospital admissions have ticked up by just under a fifth to 3,100 a day nationwide, but this is still less than 15 percent of the peak in December
The above shows the number of vaccines distributed (right) and administered (left) across the U.S. since the jabs first became available
However, Gandhi told DailyMail.com: ‘There is no evidence that children 5 to 11 years old need a booster shot of the vaccine, nor of demonstrated benefit.
‘This booster was approved [by the FDA] because antibody responses were evaluated in 67 study participants who received a booster dose seven to nine months after completing a two-dose primary series of the Covid Pfizer vaccine.
‘The antibody level against SARS-CoV-2 increased one month after the booster dose was administered, but there was no evaluation of whether the booster shot prevented symptomatic Covid or severe disease.
‘Antibodies are expected to increase after a booster dose but that does not necessarily translate to clinical benefit.’
She added: ‘Given that young males are more at risk of a rare adverse effect called myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) with mRNA vaccination, the risk versus benefits of giving a third shot to 5 to 11 year olds is not clear from the data presented.’
Gandhi also pointed to an Israeli study which found that there was ‘no benefit’ from giving the booster shot to people aged 18 to 29 years old, with no deaths recorded in either groups that received two or three doses.
She also said that the CDC estimates three in four children have already caught Covid, adding ‘one dose of the vaccine (not three) in children who have been previously infected is likely the most effective strategy to gain long-term protection.’
Gandhi has previously said she will not ask her 12 and 14-year-old boys to get a booster shot of the Covid vaccine.
The CDC’s top vaccine group — the independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — will meet today to decide whether to also recommend jabs for the age group.
It will then vote this afternoon on whether they are needed.
The committee is made up of vaccine experts who meet regularly to thrash out who should get the jabs and how they should be administered.
Offit, who is also the director of vaccine education at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has similarly raised concerns over vaccinating the age group.
Asked whether this should be done, he told DailyMail.com: ‘I think this will offer much better protection against the current circulating strains in preventing mild illness for three to six months.
‘I wish that we could have discussed this at an advisory committee meeting.’
Previously Offit has advised his 20-year-old son to avoid a booster vaccine, and said it would not be worth the risk for the ‘average healthy 17-year-old boy’.
Scientists have been concerned over plans to boost five to 11-year-olds for months, pointing out that the age group faces a low risk of severe disease and death from the virus.
Official data shows a total of 1,075 children have died from Covid since the outbreak began two-and-a-half years ago, or 0.1 percent of the more than a million recorded. For comparison, the vast majority are among adults aged 65 years old and above.
Some have also pointed to the vanishingly low risk of children suffering myocarditis — inflammation of the heart — a potential side-effect of the vaccines.
The condition tends to be mild and clears up on its own, but scientists say that the tiny risk of suffering it may outweigh any potential benefit from the top up dose.
CDC surveillance also suggests three in four children have already caught the virus, giving them some immunity against the disease.
Officials at the FDA are also considering whether to rubber-stamp Moderna’s Covid vaccine for children aged six months to five years. Pfizer is also expected to apply for the recommendation this month.
But scientists have similarly raised concerns over these plans which, if approved, would make America the only country in the world to offer Covid vaccines to children less than two years old.
Currently everyone over 11 years old can get two doses of the Covid vaccine, while all those over 15 years can get one booster shot. Second boosters are also being rolled out to everyone over the age of 50 and those who are immunocompromised.
Data from John Hopkins medical center shows daily Covid cases are now averaging six figures for the first time since February, when the Omicron wave was dying down.
Mississippi, Connecticut, Louisiana, Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia and New Mexico are all seeing cases double every two weeks on average.
In Nebraska infections are quadrupling every 14 days, while in Kansas they are tripling.
Every state is now seeing its daily case counts rise on two weeks ago except Maine, where they fell by 13 percent.
Rhode Island currently has the highest infection rate in the U.S. at 77 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Connecticut (74) and Hawaii (71).
But while infections rise hospitalizations and deaths from the virus remain low, highlighting how Omicron is more mild than previous variants.
They are currently admitting about 3,100 patients every day on average, up from the 2,500 a week ago but still way below the peak in early January when it hit more than 21,000 every 24 hours.
Deaths have been pointing downwards week-on-week for seven days in a row now.