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CDC approves shortening interval between Pfizer shots and booster, signs off on extra dose for some kids

Pharmacist Kenni Clark prepares to inject Robert Champion,

Pharmacist Kenni Clark prepares to inject Robert Champion, of Lawrence, Mass., with a booster dosage of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at City of Lawrence's "The Center," which serves seniors, families and the community, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Lawrence. Credit: AP/Charles Krupa

Children with compromised immune systems can now get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster 28 days after they receive their second dose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.

The CDC also recommended that people of all ages who received the Pfizer vaccine can get the Pfizer booster five months after their second dose — a change from the current six-month guideline.

"As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to update our recommendations to ensure the best possible protection for the American people," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. "Following the FDA’s authorizations, today’s recommendations ensure people are able to get a boost of protection in the face of omicron and increasing cases across the country, and ensure that the most vulnerable children can get an additional dose to optimize protection against COVID-19."

Dr. Matthew Harris, medical director of the Northwell Health vaccine program and a pediatric emergency doctor at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, said data was showing the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine started to wane several months after the second dose. He pointed out the guidance for the Moderna booster is still six months and two months for the Johnson & Johnson booster.

"I’m glad to see that they are constantly reviewing the data to make sure that we are given an evidence based approach," he said.

Currently, the only vaccine authorized for use in children ages 5 to 11 is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The new guidance focuses on the most vulnerable patients in this age group, such as children battling cancer and other illnesses that leave them with a weakened immune system.

"I think the third dose for those who are immunosuppressed couldn’t come at a more important time for this age group," Harris said. "These are the kids who are filling up our intensive care units. This is the subset of children who are getting very sick with the omicron variant."

On Monday, the FDA approved Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for all children who have been fully vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 15. The CDC has not weighed in on that recommendation but it will be discussed at the agency’s expert advisory committee meeting on Wednesday.

With AP