Should COVID-19 Booster Shots Be Given To Children?

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Children Covid Booster Shot

As the Coronavirus mutates from one variant to the next, scientists are still trying to figure out how this virus works. 

Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta were the first known COVID-19 variants. Scientists in South Africa recently discovered the Omicron variant, which has raised additional questions. 

The Delta variant continues to be a problem in most parts of the world, including the United States. And it might be for months to come, according to most experts.

One of the most common questions being asked recently comes from parents –  whether or not their children require COVID-19 booster shots to remain safe.

But, first and foremost, are the existing vaccines effective in combating this new variant?

The Pfizer-BioTech vaccine seems to be the first under the radar for effectiveness. According to recent[1] South Africa Omicron study data, the Pfizer vaccine does not seem to be as effective against the Omicron variant. 

As a result, the war against COVID-19 will not be over anytime soon. If the initial two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, one of the most researched, are insufficient, then getting rid of Coronavirus will be a lengthy battle.     

Fortunately, Pfizer attests that a third shot[2], the booster shot, might offer more protection. providing the body with more antibodies that will help it naturally fight the virus if they get exposed

Regarding children receiving both the Covid-19 vaccination and booster injections, many immunizations and medical professionals agree that it is still too early to determine whether or not they will require the booster shots.

However, most kids in the United States have already gotten their first doses. And so the big question is will they need a booster to be able to fight the Omicron variant?

Kids Between 5 to 11 Years

Despite the sentiments above, there have been developments this year regarding children being able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In October, Pfizer got the go-ahead from the FDA[3] to offer the vaccine in a lower dose for kids between five and eleven[4] years.

As of December 5, 2021, an estimated 16.7% of 5- to 11-year-olds in the United States had gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination. This equates to over 4.8 million of the roughly 28 million children in the U.S in this age bracket.

Kids Between 12 to 15

In November, during his appearance on CNN[5], Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, stated that kids in this age bracket would need a booster shot too. And he continued by saying that it may not be necessary since kids in that age bracket had robust immune systems ability to fight the virus.

Even so, he mentioned that he would not be surprised if their vaccines remained effective even after the stipulated six months.

Dr. Li affirmed what Fauci said in that statement as vaccine trial results supported that too.

“That’s kind of what we’re seeing, actually,” he said, adding that the doses required to elicit a strong immune response in children are much lower.

Kids Between 16 and 17 Years

This past week, Pfizer posted a request to ask the federal regulators to authorize booster shots for 16 and 17 years olds in the country. Dr. Simon Li, the Director of the division of pediatric critical care at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School In New Jersey, was one of the major people awaiting the recommendation[6] on this subject. The latest news as of 10th December 2021 is that the FDA has approved the booster shot for this age group.

The expanded authorization was signed off[7] by Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to schedule booster shot visits.

In a statement, Walensky said, “CDC is strengthening its booster recommendations and encouraging everyone 16 and older to receive a booster shot.” “We know Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and I strongly encourage adolescents ages 16 and 17 to get their booster if they are at least 6 months post their initial Pfizer vaccination series.”

How Effective are the Vaccine Shots?

Now, yet another question is how long these vaccine shots are effective?

Dr. Peter Hotez, Co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development believes that kids have a stronger immunity to COVID-19. Because of this, he suspects they will react better to the vaccine, which will offer them more extended protection. He stated that:

“The hope is that because kids have a stronger immune response generally to the vaccine that, at least in the early going, after they’ve gotten the second dose, they should still be able to mount a pretty good vaccine immune response,”

Dr. Hotez

However, Dr. Hotez believes that the duration and durability of the original vaccine’s protection are more important than a person’s age for booster shots. He says that shortening the duration between when you get the vaccine and the booster shot isn’t necessarily better.  In other words, getting a booster shot too soon after the first one could be counterproductive.

“In other words, if you wait the six months, it might be a greater boost in virus-neutralizing antibodies than if you did it after four months,”

Hortez

Will the Booster Shots Help Fight Omicron?

It’s unclear whether the booster shots in both kids and adults will be effective against Omicron because researchers are still learning more about this variant.

Dr. Li stated that they have no idea how dangerous Omicron is. What they do know is that the variant is highly infectious and spreadable.

Children in the Pfizer trial on which Li is working range from 6 months to age 11, and some are only now finishing their second doses.

Children in the Pfizer kids vaccine trial on which Li is working range from 6 months to age 11, and some are only now finishing their second doses.

Do Kids Really Need Booster Shots As Adults Do?

Yes, they do because they too can get sick, transmit it to others, and have short, or long-term COVID-19 complications.    

These shots are essential because there have been over 8,300 COVID-19-related[8] hospital admissions and close to 100 COVID-19-related mortalities reported in children aged 5 to 11 years as of mid-October 2021. COVID-19 is one of the top ten causes of death among children aged 5 to 11 years old.

Children infected with COVID-19 may also develop serious medical problems such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This is a condition in which various body parts, such as the heart, respiratory system, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs become inflamed.

And, because it is so deadly, parents need to know if their children should be vaccinated and then given a booster to keep their children safe.

Children under the age of five years old account for 2% (1 890 756) of reported global cases and 0.1 percent (1 797) of reported global deaths, according to age-disaggregated cases[9] reported to WHO from December 30, 2019, to October 25, 2021.

Older kids and younger teenagers (5 to 14 years) account for 7% (7 058 748) of worldwide cases and 0.1 percent (1 328) of global deaths. In contrast, older teenagers and young adults (15 to 24 years) contribute to 15% (14 819 320) of international cases and 0.4 percent (7 023) of global fatalities. Deaths among people under the age of 25 accounted for fewer than 0.5 percent of all deaths worldwide.

And just like in adults, COVID-19 is more likely to cause severe illness in children with underlying medical conditions than in children without such conditions.

Obesity, diabetes, asthma or chronic lung disease, sickle cell disease, or immunosuppression can put children at risk[10] for severe sickness from COVID-19, much like adults.

As can be seen, the CDC, FDA, and the entire globe are concerned about vaccines for children aged 5 to 17. More so if they should get boosters after their initial shots. Parents simply want their children to be safe so that they may go back to playing and sharing school spaces with their friends.

Final Thoughts

COVID-19 has been and continues to be a contentious issue in all societies. Even though governments and medical specialists are working feverishly to contain the virus, we are the primary preventive measure.

 As a result, wear a mask at all times, sterilize and clean your hands frequently, keep a social distance, and refrain from crowding. Assist your children in doing the same so that they can protect themselves.


+ 10 sources

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  1. Berkeley Lovelace Jr and Akshay Syal, MD (2021). Pfizer vaccine may be less effective against omicron, early lab data indicate. [online] NBC News. Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pfizer-vaccine-may-less-effective-omicron-early-lab-data-finds-rcna7938 [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  2. ‌Berkeley Lovelace Jr and Fieldstadt, E. (2021). Pfizer says vaccine booster dose protects against omicron variant. [online] NBC News. Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pfizer-says-booster-dose-vaccine-protects-omicron-variant-rcna7970 [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  3. ‌Office of the Commissioner (2021). FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use in Children 5 through 11 Years of Age. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-authorizes-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-emergency-use-children-5-through-11-years-age#:~:text=Press%20Announcements-,FDA%20Authorizes%20Pfizer%2DBioNTech%20COVID%2D19%20Vaccine%20for%20Emergency%20Use,through%2011%20Years%20of%20Age&text=Today%2C%20the%20U.S.%20Food%20and,through%2011%20years%20of%20age. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  4. ‌Miller, S.G. and Tirrell, M. (2021). FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 to 11. [online] NBC News. Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/fda-authorizes-pfizer-vaccine-kids-5-11-rcna3892 [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  5. ‌Christensen, J. (2021). Hear what Dr. Fauci thinks about vaccine boosters for kids. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/12/07/health/covid-19-vaccine-boosters-for-kids-wellness/index.html [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  6. ‌Griffith, J. (2021). Will children need Covid-19 booster shots? [online] NBC News. Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/will-children-need-covid-19-booster-shots-rcna8057 [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  7. ‌Kimball, S. (2021). CDC strongly encourages Pfizer Covid booster shots for 16- and 17-year-olds amid omicron fears. [online] CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/09/fda-expands-eligibility-for-pfizer-covid-booster-shots-to-16-and-17-year-olds.html [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  8. ‌Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Center for Preparedness and Response Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccines: CDC’s Recommendations for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Primary Series in Children 5-11 Years Old Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) Call. (2021). [online] Available at: https://emergency.cdc.gov/coca/ppt/2021/110421_slide.pdf [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  9. ‌World Health Organization: WHO (2021). Interim statement on COVID-19 vaccination for children and adolescents. [online] Who.int. Available at: https://www.who.int/news/item/24-11-2021-interim-statement-on-covid-19-vaccination-for-children-and-adolescents [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].
  10. ‌CDC (2020). People with Certain Medical Conditions. [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html#:~:text=Similar%20to%20adults%2C%20children%20with,severe%20illness%20from%20COVID%2D19. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021].

Medically reviewed by:

Mitchelle Morgan is a health and wellness writer with over 10 years of experience. She holds a Master's in Communication. Her mission is to provide readers with information that helps them live a better lifestyle. All her work is backed by scientific evidence to ensure readers get valuable and actionable content.

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