AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — More people, including young teens, can now get further vaccine protection against the omicron variant after changes to booster guidelines this week.
On Monday, the FDA cleared booster doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine shots for kids ages 12-15.
“So, what that means for families, is kids aged 12 and up can get that third booster dose, which can further protect them against Omicron and also other variants of COVID going around, that they previously weren’t allowed to get. But now it’s been studied and shown that it is safe for them,” said Dr. Anders Leverton, a board-certified pediatrician with Texas Tech Physicians.
On Tuesday, the CDC also said anyone who received the Pfizer vaccine can get the booster sooner, five months after the second dose instead of the previously recommended six-month interval.
The CDC also recommended that moderately or severely immunocompromised kids ages 5-11 receive an additional primary dose of the Pfizer vaccine 28 days after their second shot.
Northwest Texas Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brian Weis, said he encourages everyone who is eligible for a booster dose to get it as soon as they can.
“The data is very clearly showing that the booster if it doesn’t stop you from getting the virus, it certainly really significantly lowers the risk of needing to be in the hospital or be becoming critically ill,” said Dr. Weis.
He said he is concerned about more pediatric COVID patients after school starts back from the holiday break.
“Typically, we’re at one or two [pediatric COVID patients] most of the time. So, we’re at four today, two of those children are in the intensive care unit,” Dr. Weis said on Tuesday. “So, again, you see, if you look around the country, that’s a big concern, as you’re seeing a really significant upward trend of pediatric cases coming with COVID.”
Dr. Leverton said some children may experience side effects from the vaccine similar to those from the flu shot, but most do relatively well, especially younger kids with the lower dose.
“So, you’re more likely to get those symptoms being infected with COVID than you are with the vaccines,” said Dr. Leverton. “The vaccine is safe and I’d implore everybody to you know, if they want to, go get one…”
In his personal clinical experience, Dr. Leverton said parents are usually 50/50 on getting their kids vaccinated against COVID. He said he is hopeful more kids will be boosted against omicron.
“I think with this third booster dose though, I do think we’ll get more parents wanting to give it because when kids get exposed to Coronavirus and it results in a quarantine, that also means parents gotta take off from work and it is difficult to do that and also not miss work and be home with your kids take care of them,” said Dr. Leverton. “It’s a struggle.”
Booster intervals for the Moderna and J&J vaccines have not changed. They are still recommended six months after the second dose.