F.D.A. Expected to Clear First Coronavirus Vaccine for Young Children

State and local health officials are advocating not only more hesitation about vaccines, but also possible fights over vaccine mandates in schools.

“I think the statement we’ve seen about the mask problem will probably pale in comparison to what we’re going to see about the idea of ​​a vaccine mandate” for schoolchildren, Dr. Jessica Snowden, chief of the infectious diseases division at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, said. At a meeting this week of the FDA’s expert advisory panel on vaccines, several members came out strongly against school vaccine mandates.

What you need to know about Covid-19 booster shots

Who is eligible for a booster shot?

The FDA has authorized booster shots for millions of recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Recipients of Pfizer and Moderna who are eligible for a booster include people 65 and older and younger adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 due to medical conditions or where they work. Eligible Pfizer and Moderna recipients can receive a booster at least six months after their second dose. All Johnson & Johnson recipients are eligible for a second injection at least two months after the first.

Can I exchange Covid vaccines for a booster?

Yes. The FDA has updated its authorizations to allow medical providers to incentivize people with a different vaccine than the one they were initially given, a strategy known as “mix and match.” Whether you’ve been given Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or Pfizer-BioNTech, you can get a booster from any other vaccine. Regulators have not recommended one vaccine over another as a booster. They have also kept quiet about whether it is preferable to stick with the same vaccine if possible.

What underlying medical conditions are eligible for a booster injection?

The CDC has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster injection are: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney, or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and (ex-)smokers are also eligible.

Which professions are eligible for boosters?

The FDA approved boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says that group includes: medical workers; education workers; food and agricultural workers; factory workers; corrections employees; US Postal Service workers; employees in public transport; grocery store workers.

Can I get a flu shot at the same time as a Covid vaccine or booster vaccination?

Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites allow people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.

A CDC study suggests that 42 percent of children ages 5 to 11 have antibodies to the coronavirus as a result of a previous infection, prompting some FDA advisers to question whether one dose would be enough for children. The use of that study has been questioned by some scientists. FDA panelists also asked whether only those with high-risk medical conditions such as obesity should receive the vaccine, as it is clear that they are most vulnerable to becoming very ill with Covid-19.

But CDC officials said it would be difficult to narrow down eligibility, and the FDA’s advisory panel approved offering the pediatric dose to the entire age group by a vote of 17-0, with one abstention.

dr. Snowden said the Delta variant wiped out any idea that children are impervious to the virus. At the height of the most recent wave, she said, Arkansas Children’s Hospital was treating as many as 30 children a day for Covid, including some with fully vaccinated parents. While that number has dwindled, “it’s still not back to where we were before Delta,” she said.

Much of the burden of the pediatric injection rollout is expected to fall on pediatricians and general practitioners, many of whom are pressured by staff shortages and pent-up demand for care at this point in the pandemic, but have deep relationships with parents and children. dr. Sterling Ransone, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a physician in rural Deltaville, Virginia, said he would keep his office open later on weekdays and Saturdays to meet the demand for pediatric injections.

“We know who to prioritize: asthmatics, people with heart disease, people who are obese,” he said.

dr. Victor Peralta, a pediatrician in the racially diverse neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, said the initial uptake of his patients might be a little slower, most of whom are poor enough to have Medicaid coverage. But he predicted that the pediatric dose would catch on and eventually slow the transmission of the virus. “I have no doubt that this will make a difference beyond just the concerned pit,” he said.

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