COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Federal regulators are now recommending COVID-19 booster shots for Americans as young as 12. Some Central Ohio parents hope the expanded eligibility will help keep their students in school.
Wednesday evening, the CDC director endorsed a committee recommendation for children ages 12 to 17 to receive Pfizer booster shots. The brand is currently the only one of three options authorized for children under 18.
The agency recommends those who received the Pfizer vaccine, now get a booster shot five months after the initial two-dose series. If you got the Moderna series, it says the extra dose should be six months later. Recipients of the Johnson & Johnson brand should get a booster two months after the single-dose vaccine.
“A booster raises your antibody levels. Higher antibody levels provide protection against infection. That’s what a booster is all about,” explained Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease specialist at OhioHealth.
Additionally, the FDA is also now recommending all Americans age 5 and older who are immunocompromised receive an extra shot 28 days after the original vaccine series. The third dose would be considered part of the initial series and most patients would also need a booster months later.
The new guidance comes as health experts blame the omicron variant for record-high COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Dr. Gastaldo said data is just starting to emerge about the vaccine and booster shot’s effectiveness against the contagious strain.
“With omicron out there, more people are vulnerable to get a post-vaccination infection. And right now, if you get infected with omicron you’re out for a few days. And that’s really happening in all parts of our society,” he said.
This week, dozens of Central Ohio schools have announced delays and transitions to remote learning because of widespread staffing absences.
Michael Peden said he’s also noticing more children absent from class, particularly in his son’s 7th grade class.
“There’s so many other reasons why they’re not in school – being sick, family illnesses and stuff like that,” he said. “[COVID-19] is not one thing we need right now. We’ve got to stay in school.”
The Columbus father of 4 was bringing his 10 year old and 7 year old daughters to Columbus Public Health (CPH) Thursday to receive their second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
“Midas, our 4-year-old, he hasn’t had the option to have the shot yet. So we’re just trying to keep him healthy as much as possible,” Peden explained, adding his wife is also pregnant with the couple’s next child.
Now that the CDC has expanded its booster recommendations, he plans to bring his middle school son to the health department for a booster shot.
“Just keeping them healthy, keeping their brother healthy, keeping the next person healthy,” Peden said. “These shots mean everything. It’s going to protect them in the long run.”
Thursday, CPH staff said it was waiting on official guidance from the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health before beginning to administer booster shots for the younger age group. Dr. Gastaldo expected OhioHealth to begin its boosters for 12-17 year olds as soon as it operationalized its supply of boosters. Nationwide Children’s Hospital plans to start offering the booster shots for ages 12-17 on Monday, January 11. Appointments can be made on the NCH website.