On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration extended the emergency use of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent COVID-19 vaccines to younger age groups.
These updated vaccines, which target the original COVID-19 strain as well as the omicron mutations, can now be administered to children as young as 5 years old.
“Since children have gone back to school in person and people are resuming pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is the potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Dr. Peter Marks in the announcement. “Vaccination remains the most effective measure to prevent the severe consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.”
Marks noted that even though the coronavirus infection among children was less severe, the numerous waves of infection have left many young kids sick and, in some cases, hospitalized, with the effects of the disease lingering on.
“We are carefully monitoring the rise of several subvariants that are evolving rapidly and emerging around the world, including ones that evade some of our treatments,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the COVID-19 response coordinator, said in a White House press briefing.
Right now, the dominant strain behind nearly 80% of reported infections in the U.S. is BA.5, which this new booster shot offers protection against, Jha added.
Other subvariants currently under surveillance are BA.2.75, BA.4.6 and BF.7, according to CNBC.
Jha said that with the rising mutations observed in other countries, as well as rising infections and deaths, “it’s reasonable to expect we’re going to see a significant flu season this year.”
CDC data estimated that over 11.5 million people have received the updated booster shot.