USA – The United States FDA (US FDA) has authorized updated COVID-19 boosters for children as young as five, seeking to broaden protection ahead of an expected winter storm.

The Food and Drug Administration has now approved the updated booster doses for elementary school-age children as well — one made by Pfizer for 5- to 11-year-olds, and another made by rival Moderna for those as young as 6.

Last month, modified boosters were made available to Americans aged 12 and up, with doses tailored to target today’s most common and contagious omicron relative.

While there was no rush, federal health officials are urging people to seek additional precautions before holiday gatherings.

According to Pfizer, both shots are specific to the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants, which account for more than 80% of cases in the US.

The announcement comes as the United States ramps up its promotional campaign in the aftermath of authorizations for those aged 12 and up at the end of August.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which makes recommendations on how vaccines should be used, also agreed.

Americans may be sick of hearing that they need to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but experts say the updated shots have an advantage: They contain half of the original coronavirus recipe and half of the protection against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 omicron versions.

The government has already struggled to persuade people in the U.S. to get their first booster doses. Less than half of the people who are eligible to get their first booster doses have received them, according to the CDC.

Less than half of Americans who had completed their primary Covid-19 vaccine series had received their first booster as of last week.

This combination, or “bivalent,” boosters are intended to broaden immune defenses so that people are better protected against serious illness whether they come into contact with an omicron relative or a different mutant that is more like the original virus in the coming months.

Following the CDC’s recommendation, Pfizer and BioNTech said their 10- microgram (µg) booster doses would be “shipped immediately.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stated that widespread use of the updated vaccines in early fall could prevent 9,000 deaths and save the country billions of dollars in medical costs.

Only those who have received their initial vaccinations — using any of the original-formula versions — are eligible for an updated booster.

That means roughly three-quarters of all Americans aged 12 and up are eligible. According to Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 coordinator, only at least 13 million people had received an updated booster as of last weekend, Cites PBS news.

To the dismay of pediatricians, getting children their first vaccinations has become more difficult. Less than one-third of children aged 5 to 11 have received their two primary doses and thus qualify for the new booster.

This age group will receive child-sized doses of the updated booster, and they will be able to receive it at least two months after their previous dose, whether it was a primary vaccination or an earlier booster, according to the FDA.

In addition to ongoing adult-dose shipments, Pfizer said it could ship up to 6 million kid-sized doses within a week of authorization.

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