The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized updated Covid-19 boosters for kids as young as 5.
Previously, the newer versions of the shots — which target both the original strain of the coronavirus as well as the dominant BA.5 form of the Omicron variant — were only available to adults and kids as young as 12.
Specifically, the FDA gave the green light to Moderna’s bivalent booster, which had been authorized only for adults, for kids 6 and older. The bivalent booster from Pfizer-BioNTech will now be available to kids 5 and older. It had previously been authorized for people 12 and up.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to sign off on the shots — which is expected — before they’ll be made available.
“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,” Peter Marks, a top FDA vaccine regulator, said in a statement. “Vaccination remains the most effective measure to prevent the severe consequences of Covid-19, including hospitalization and death. 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 booster shots are available two months after people complete their two-dose primary series of the mRNA vaccines. The primary series continues to use the original formulation of the Covid-19 vaccines.
Experts also advise people to wait three months after they’ve been infected with Covid-19 to receive a booster dose.
The Biden administration and U.S. health officials have been urging Americans to get the updated booster, but uptake has gotten off to a slow start since the shots became available last month. Fewer people have received additional Covid-19 shots with each round of successive booster authorizations.
Administration officials said they hope that more people will roll up their sleeves as the country moves further into the fall, with both an anticipated surge looming and the holidays approaching.
“I think people should go get vaccinated before Halloween,” White House Covid-19 coordinator Ashish Jha said at a briefing Tuesday. “Why Halloween? Because it takes a couple of weeks for your immune system to generate the benefit from that vaccine. And that means you will be ready by Thanksgiving and certainly by the holidays.”
Jha added though that if people don’t get receive the booster before Halloween, they will still benefit whenever they get it.
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