Omicron boosters are now available for American kids. Many won't get them
Pfizer's Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccines are now available for kids as young as 5 years old.
Yes, but: While some parents will jump at the chance to get their children boosted, uptake of this version of the booster will likely remain low, unless there's a wintertime surge of new cases.
Why it matters: The updated shots — retooled to target the BA.5 strain that still accounts for most cases in the U.S. — could provide some valuable protection for kids amid what's becoming a rough season for respiratory viruses.
- Already, RSV and enterovirus have surged among school-aged children, filling up U.S. emergency rooms and beds in children's hospitals, and officials have said they expect a severe flu season.
- As cold weather sends more people indoors, health officials also warn a new wave of COVID driven by stealthy new subvariants could also be on the way in the U.S., following trends in Europe.
- White House officials urged all eligible Americans to get a shot by Oct. 31 in order to be fully protected before the holidays, USA Today reported.
State of play: Nearly a year since the first COVID vaccines were approved for kids ages 5–11, parents continue to take a wait-and-see approach.
- About 9 million kids in that age group, or fewer than 1 in 3, have completed their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, as of Oct. 5, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- In comparison, 58% of kids 12-17 had completed their primary vaccine series.
- Even among adults, uptake of Omicron boosters has been soft. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor found only 5% of adults had gotten the updated shot. Fewer than a third said they planned to get one as soon as possible.
Between the lines: Globally, uptake of COVID vaccines for kids has been spotty. Public health experts say delays resulted in them being launched at a time when the disease was no longer widely viewed as a crisis, Nature reported.
- "The case has not been adequately made about the significant number of deaths and hospitalizations among kids," said Peter Hotez, a pediatric vaccine scientist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, per Nature.
The bottom line: "Overall, the vaccination push will continue to be a long slog, perhaps only receiving a jolt if cases start to rise significantly and/or a new variant emerges that is more harmful," Jen Kates, Kaiser Family Foundation's director of global health and HIV policy, tweeted.