Updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters available for younger children

New boosters aimed at restoring protection that waned due to recent variants.

As COVID-19 boosters become available to more individuals in younger age groups, a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reinforced the effectiveness of those vaccines for older generations.

Updated boosters are now available for children between the ages of five and 11 years old in addition to the boosters previously available to those 12 years old and older. Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky recently expanded the use of updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccines to the younger age group following the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech for children ages five through 11 years, and from Moderna for children and adolescents ages six through 17 years.

Updated COVID-19 vaccines include Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components in addition to the current vaccine composition. These new boosters are aimed at restoring protection that has previously waned due to recent Omicron variants that are more transmissible and immune-evading.

Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County is offering boosters for those between five and 11 years old, but those boosters are not available at the health department’s vaccine clinics. Parents or guardians should call the health department at (937) 225-4550 to schedule an appointment. Those wanting to take part in the health department’s vaccine clinics should also call that number to set up appointments.

“It’s still very important to get that updated booster shot,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County.

A new study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also underscores the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, showing vaccines in 2021 were linked to more than 650,000 fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations and more than 300,000 fewer deaths among seniors and other Americans enrolled in Medicare. The study was conducted by researchers with HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

“This report reaffirms what we have said all along: COVID-19 vaccines save lives and prevent hospitalizations,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We now have updated COVID vaccines designed to protect you against the Omicron strain of COVID that makes up almost all COVID cases in the U.S.”

Nationally, more than 90% of seniors are fully vaccinated and more than 70% of seniors have had a booster shot, according to Health and Human Services. In addition to the reductions in severe COVID-19 health outcomes, reductions in COVID-19 hospitalizations were associated with savings of more than $16 billion in direct medical costs, the department said.

Local interest in COVID-19 booster shots has been waning with a slower uptake on the newer boosters.

“In that respect, we have a long way to go,” Suffoletto said. Even with cases of COVID going down, he said it is still important to get vaccinated and stay up to date on shots.

Additionally, those looking to get a vaccine can go online to vaccines.gov to find a location at a local pharmacy or other nearby location.

In a press conference Thursday, state health officials also recommended individuals to get vaccinated and be prepared for illness in the fall and winter months even though weekly COVID-19 cases remain low.

“The good news is, the level of COVID-19 virus circulating in our communities has continued to decline significantly. Case counts have dropped nearly 30% in Ohio over the past two weeks, although that we recognize with the popularity of at-home testing, many cases may go unreported,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health. He said hospitalizations have also declined approximately 25% over the past two months.

“Despite these positive indicators, about a dozen Ohioans continue to die of COVID-19 every day,” Vanderhoff said. “We recently passed the unfortunate milestone of 40,000 deaths in Ohio.”

This virus continues to mutate, he said, and new variants of concern have emerged in Europe and China, following a global pattern of new variants popping up approximately every 90 to 120 days.

Vanderhoff said individuals should prepare for colder months by taking preventative measures like getting vaccinated, having a plan for getting tested if COVID symptoms arise, and seeking possible therapeutic treatments from their health care providers if they test positive. Some treatments are more appropriate for others depending on factors like age and if an individual is immunocompromised.

Individuals can also take steps of improving ventilation where they live, as well as staying home and away from others when feeling sick.

“If you are not vaccinated or boosted, now is the time,” Vanderhoff said.

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