Kids as young as 5 can soon get updated COVID boosters in U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for elementary school-age kids to get updated booster doses to protect against COVID-19.

As people resume pre-pandemic behaviours, risk of exposure goes up

Stickers to be given to vaccinated patients are pictured inside the newly-set up vaccination centre in Liverpool, England, on December 20, 2021.
Redesigned bivalent booster shots target the original version of coronavirus as well as subvariants of Omicron. (Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. health regulators authorized the use of Omicron-tailored COVID-19 booster shots from Moderna and Pfizer in children as young as five, a move that will expand the U.S. government's fall vaccination campaign.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday greenlighted Moderna's bivalent vaccine for those aged six and above, while Pfizer's updated shot was authorized in children aged five and above.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also backed the FDA's authorization, clearing the way for the shots to be administered in children.

The redesigned bivalent booster shots from both Moderna and Pfizer target the original version as well as the BA.4 and the currently dominant BA.5 subvariants of Omicron.

"Since children have gone back to school in person and people are resuming pre-pandemic behaviours and activities, there is the potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus," said Peter Marks, head of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

In Canada, at least 88 per cent of those age five and older received at least one dose. Overall, COVID-19 vaccination rates in the United States have stayed low among kids.

Empty vials of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) children's vaccines are pictured at a pharmacy in the U.S.
Empty vials of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 children's vaccines are pictured at a pharmacy in Schwenksville, Penn. (Hannah Beier/Reuters)

The BA.5 subvariant of Omicron currently remains the dominant strain, accounting for nearly 79 per cent of the cases in the United States.

Rising indicators in Europe

Meanwhile, another wave of COVID-19 infections may have begun in Europe as cases begin to tick up across the 
region, the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Wednesday.

"Although we are not where we were one year ago, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is still not over," WHO's Europe director, Hans Kluge, and ECDC's director, Andrea Ammon, said in a joint statement.

"We are unfortunately seeing indicators rising again in Europe, suggesting that another wave of infections has begun."

WHO's regional data showed that only Europe recorded a rise in COVID-19 cases in the week ended Oct. 2, clocking an increase of eight per cent from the prior week.

Public health experts have warned that vaccine fatigue and confusion over available vaccines will likely limit booster 
uptake in Europe.

Millions of people across Europe remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, the WHO and ECDC noted.

They urged European countries to administer both flu and COVID-19 vaccines ahead of an expected surge in cases of seasonal influenza.

"There was no time to lose," the WHO and ECDC said, adding that vulnerable groups, including people over 60 years old, pregnant women and those with comorbidities, should get vaccinated against both influenza and COVID-19.