Oct. 27, 2021 -- The CDC is urging parents and guardians to vaccinate children ages 5-11 against COVID-19 once the shot is fully approved, despite questions from FDA advisers about the urgency given falling national case rates.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on Tuesday voted to recommend a 10-microgram shot for children. Though 17 of the 18 panelists voted in favor of it, some members said it was a hard decision and questioned the need for it now that cases and hospitalizations are down.

“There’s urgency because we’re seeing disease in children, we’ve seen deaths in children, we’ve seen long COVID,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said at a Wednesday White House briefing. “Certainly we’ve seen cases come down before, and the way to prevent surges again is to get more and more people vaccinated.”

CDC data presented at Tuesday’s advisory committee meeting shows that among children 5-11, COVID-19 was one of top 10 causes of death over last year, Walensky said. There have been more than 8,300 hospitalizations and 745 deaths in children under 18.

As of yesterday, the 7-day average of daily COVID-19 cases was 65,900, a 16% decrease from the prior week. Hospitalizations are down 54% from the week of Aug. 28, Walensky said.

“If the trends continue the way they are going, the emergency for children is not what we might think it would be. That was my concern,” James Hildreth, MD, president and CEO at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, said at Tuesday’s advisory committee meeting.

But according to one CDC study, hospitalization rates for adolescents were 10 times higher in those who were unvaccinated. Another study found that COVID-related emergency room visits and hospital admissions among children were more than 3 times as high in states with the lowest vaccination rates.

“We are down from our peak in early September, and we are now heading in the right direction, but with cases still high, we must remain vigilant heading into the colder, drier winter months,” Walensky said, noting that the 7-day average of daily deaths still exceeds 1,000.

Meanwhile, the booster program is off to a “very strong start,” said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients.

In the 5 days since authorizations, about 15 million people have received an additional dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

News briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Team, Oct. 27, 2021.

CDC: “Trends in COVID-19 Cases, Emergency Department Visits, and Hospital Admissions Among Children and Adolescents Aged 0–17 Years — United States, August 2020–August 2021,” “Hospitalizations Associated with COVID-19 Among Children and Adolescents — COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1, 2020–August 14, 2021.”

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