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CDC's independent vaccine advisers will meet to discuss COVID-19 boosters for kids

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Jen Christensen -

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet Thursday to discuss updates on COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness for children ages 5-11 years, CDC guidance on boosters for that age group and the framework for that booster dose.

The committee will vote in the afternoon on whether or not this age group should be eligible for a booster.

The committee made up of vaccine experts regularly meets to go over the science related to vaccines and to give guidance on how vaccines should be administered.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the eligibility for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children 5 to 11 years of age. The children would be able to get the booster at least five months after they have completed their primary series of shots.

Pfizer had requested this emergency use authorization at the end of April. The company said data from its clinical trials showed it raised Omicron-fighting antibodies by 36 times in this age group. The trial that included 4,500 children ages 5 through 11 years saw no new safety issues, according to the company.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been tough on kids. Studies from the New York State Department of Health and the CDC found that the effectiveness of two doses of Pfizer's vaccine for children ages 5 to 12 fell significantly during the Omicron surge, falling from 68% to about 12% against infection. Two doses of the vaccine did seem to keep kids out of the hospital.

While not at the same levels as during the Omicron wave, COVID-19 cases among children have been increasing. The number of new COVID-19 cases among children in the U.S. grew nearly 76% last week from two weeks prior, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Monday.

According to the latest report from the CDC, 1,536 children have died of COVID-19 in the U.S.

The AAP says that almost 13.2 million kids in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic, with more than 5.3 million of those cases coming this year. Those numbers are probably undercounted, as testing has fallen off in much of the country.

Public health officials have urged all Americans to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, including all recommended booster doses, as the best way to protect themselves and the people around them. Of those who are eligible, though, children are the least vaccinated age group in the U.S.

Among parents of 5 to 11 year olds, about four in ten say their kid has gotten vaccinated, while 12% say that they will either only get their child vaccinated if they are required to for school and 32% say that their child will not get vaccinated at all, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation that was released at the beginning of May.

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