Illinois health officials approve bivalent COVID-19 boosters for children 5 and older – NBC Chicago

Updated COVID-19 booster shots were recently authorized to include children as young as 5 years old, and Illinois health officials are backing expanded access by aiming to boost protection against new strains of the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control turned on the eligibility expansion on Wednesday. Dr. Sameer Vohra, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement Friday that the new access range comes at a critical time in Illinois.

According to IDPH data, 16 counties are ranked at a “medium” COVID community level. Over the past week, 10,416 new cases of the virus have been reported in the state, including 52 deaths. Following a national trend, the state has also seen “a sharp increase in serious respiratory infections among children,” according to Vohra.

“The updated COVID-19 bivalent booster, along with the flu shot, provides parents with two powerful tools to protect their children from serious illness and hospitalization,” Vohra said. “With an increase in childhood respiratory illnesses already underway and the potential for diseases like COVID-19 and influenza to increase later this fall and winter, now is the best time to get these safe and effective vaccines.”

The updated booster doses, which have been adjusted to specifically target the omicron COVID variant and the now-dominant highly contagious subvariants, were initially rolled out in September. Officials have recommended that eligible members of the community receive their booster shots before Halloween, in an effort to provide additional protection ahead of winter and the upcoming holidays.

The shots come as Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, expressed concern earlier this week for the upcoming flu season, saying ‘all signs point’ to a dramatic increase influenza virus cases and hospitalizations.

“The southern hemisphere had a very bad flu season during its winter. Australia just had the worst flu season it has seen in five years, with levels much higher than previous years,” said Arwady during a Facebook Live. “All the signs point to this being a pretty bad flu season, and my worry is that if we have a bad flu season on top of a bad COVID, this really has the potential to threaten our healthcare systems.”

Arwady said any increase in COVID cases could potentially cause serious strain on the healthcare system if the flu season is bad and noted his concern for children is increasing with RSV cases already rising among populations. younger.

“We are already seeing a large increase in respiratory viruses in the broad sense, even before the flu has taken hold in earnest,” she said. “We see our pediatric hospitals filling up with children admitted with RSV and other childhood viruses.”

In a Thursday interview with NBC 5’s Lauren Petty, Arwady stressed that the new COVID booster available for children as young as 5 is key to preventing a possible surge in the coming months.

“Everyone gets [the booster] that’s how we’re going to hopefully stay out of trouble here this fall and winter,” she said.

With the eligibility extended to children, Arwady recommended everyone 5 and older get the new booster, saying the recommended time frame is 6 months after your most recent booster.

Arwady also said she expects shooting to begin in the Chicago area as early as next week.

“We plan to start on Monday, assuming there are no shipping issues,” Arwady said. “Your pharmacy, your doctor’s office is now allowed to give it to 5 and over.”

As the cold weather sets in, Arwady stressed the importance of staying healthy ahead of the holidays, saying “You can get your COVID shot and your flu shot, and get one in each arm if you want. It’s more important than ever to do so.”

Here’s what we currently know about the new snaps available for kids:

What vaccines can children receive and who is eligible?

The FDA on Wednesday cleared Pfizer’s bivalent injections for elementary school-aged children, or those ages 5 to 11, and a version of rival Moderna for those as young as 6.

The CDC, which recommends the use of vaccines, also signed off hours later.

Only people who received their first vaccines – with one of the versions of the original formula – are eligible for an updated booster. The booster cannot be given until at least two months after the primary or booster vaccination is completed in children, the FDA said.

Less than a third of children aged 5 to 11 have received their two primary doses and would therefore be eligible for the new booster.

When could the shootings start?

Pfizer said it could ship up to 6 million children’s doses within a week of approval, in addition to ongoing shipments of adult doses.

“I guess the earliest would be potentially next week or maybe the week after that we’ll have bivalent vaccines available for ages 5 to 11,” the Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner said Tuesday. Dr. Allison Arwady. to authorization.

Is the dosage different for children?

This age group will receive children’s doses of the new booster targeting omicron – and they can receive it at least two months after their last dose, whether this is their primary vaccination series or a previous booster , the FDA said.

For the updated booster made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, children ages 5 to 11 would receive one-third the dose that anyone 12 and older already receives.

Until now, Moderna’s updated booster was only allowed for adults. The FDA just expanded this bivalent dose for adults to ages 12 to 17 and authorized half the dose for children ages 6 to 11.

Are there any security issues?

The updated reminders are “extremely important” to keeping children healthy and in school, said Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Parents should know “there are no safety concerns with bivalent vaccines, whether Moderna or Pfizer,” Newland added.

How are bivalent shots different?

Experts say the updated plans have one advantage: They contain half the recipe that targeted the original strain of coronavirus and half the protection against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 omicron versions.

These combination or “bivalent” boosters are designed to broaden immune defenses so that people are better protected against serious illnesses, whether they encounter an omicron parent in the coming months – or a different mutant that looks more like the virus of origin.

“We want to have the best of both worlds,” Pfizer pediatrician Dr. Bill Gruber told The Associated Press. He hopes the updated snaps will “re-energize interest in protecting children through the winter”.

Why should kids get it?

“Since children have returned to in-person school and people are resuming their pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is an increased risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. Vaccination remains the most effective in preventing the serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” FDA Vaccines Chief Dr. Peter Marks said in a statement. “Although it has been widely the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than in adults, as different waves of COVID-19 have occurred, more children have contracted the disease and have been hospitalized. Children may also experience long-term effects, even after initially mild illness. We encourage parents to consider primary vaccination of children and follow-up with an updated booster dose when eligible .

What protection do shots offer?

What exactly protection does an updated COVID-19 booster shot provide? It’s hard to know. Pfizer and Moderna begin studies in young children.

But the FDA has authorized COVID-19 reminder adjustments without requiring human test results — much like it approves annual changes to flu vaccines. This is partly because the two companies had previously studied modified experimental plans to target earlier variants of COVID-19, including an earlier version of omicron, and found that they safely activated anti-COVID-19 antibodies. virus.

“It’s clearly a better vaccine, a significant upgrade from what we had before,” Jha said earlier this week.

Jha urged adults to get up-to-date vaccinations in October – as if they were getting flu shots – or at least well before holiday gatherings with high-risk family and friends. People who recently had COVID-19 still need the booster but can wait about three months, he added.

What about children under 5?

As for even younger toddlers, the first vaccinations didn’t open for the under-5 age group until mid-June – and it will be several more months before regulators decide whether they will have also need a refresher using the updated recipe.

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