CDC Recommends COVID-19 Vaccines for Young Children

Today, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This expands eligibility for vaccination to nearly 20 million additional children and means that all Americans ages 6 months and older are now eligible for vaccination. 

Parents and caregivers can now get their children 6 months through 5 years of age vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines to better protect them from COVID-19. All children, including children who have already had COVID-19, should get vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccines have undergone—and will continue to undergo—the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Parents and caregivers can play an active role in monitoring the safety of these vaccines by signing their children up for v-safe – personalized and confidential health check-ins via text messages and web surveys where they can easily share with CDC how a child feels after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Distribution of pediatric vaccinations for these younger children has started across the country, and will be available at thousands of pediatric practices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, local health departments, clinics, and other locations this week. Children in this younger age group can be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is available (either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech). Parents can reach out to their doctor, nurse, local pharmacy, or health department, or visit vaccines.gov to see where vaccines for children are available.     

Read the full release from the CDC.

Children Ages 6 months – 4 Years May Soon Be Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccination

Long-awaited pediatric vaccinations are currently in the authorization process

OLYMPIA: Several COVID-19 vaccination series for children are being considered for emergency use authorization in the coming days, including:

  • A Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 6 months — 4 years
  • A Moderna vaccines for children ages 6 months — 5 years
  • A second Moderna vaccine for youth ages 6 — 17 years

The agencies that must authorize or recommend vaccines for these ages are the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. If the recommendations for these vaccines pass, the Washington State Department of Health will begin supplying healthcare providers with vaccines for children ages 6 months to 4 years.

“Getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect yourself and those around you. We applaud the patience of parents anxiously awaiting this authorization. As a parent, I understand their desire to protect their child,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “We expect enough vaccines to meet initial demand and that supply will continue to increase in the coming days and weeks.

“We will continue to monitor supply to meet the needs of those seeking out COVID-19 vaccines for all age groups. We are all in it together.”

While parents are understandably eager for their young children to receive these vaccines, similar to other vaccine rollouts the Department of Health urges them to remain patient. Overwhelming demand may temporarily slow the pediatric vaccination process while more providers and healthcare systems may take time to support the potential increase in demand.

To make a vaccine or booster appointment, visit Vaccine Locator, Vaccines.gov, or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 833-VAX-HELP. Language assistance is available. If you do not find an appointment in your immediate area, we recommend that you continue checking as more providers come online. Those with further questions are encouraged to visit DOH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions webpage or talk to their trusted health care provider.

Children ages 5-11 now eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster dose

Booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are now available for children ages 5-11. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) expanded booster dose eligibility to include everyone 5 and older following guidance and recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

“The CDC’s announcement is welcome news as we continue to do everything we can to keep Washingtonians of all ages safe,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “This pandemic is not over and we must continue to use the tools at our disposal. This includes masking, therapeutics, vaccinations and – of course – boosters. Keeping yourselves and those around you safe is of utmost importance, and this recommendation is another step in that direction.”

The expansion of booster eligibility comes as COVID-19 cases are continuing to steadily rise across the county. The myth that COVID-19 is always a mild disease in children needs to be dispelled. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 4.8 million children ages 5-11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with 15,000 hospitalized and, tragically, 180 deceased.

DOH’s updated booster dose recommendations are as follows:

  • Children ages 5-11 should receive a booster dose five months after completing their primary vaccine series of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Immunocompromised children should receive their booster at least three months after their primary series.
  • Everyone 12 and older should receive a booster dose five months after completing their primary vaccine series of Pfizer or Moderna, or two months after receiving the single-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
  • Everyone 50 and older should receive a second booster dose four months after receiving their first booster dose.
  • Individuals 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should receive a second booster dose four months after receiving their first booster dose.
  • Those 18 and older who received a primary vaccine and booster dose of the J&J vaccine four months ago can receive a second booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

To make a vaccine or booster appointment, visit Vaccine Locator, Vaccines.gov, or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 833-VAX-HELP. Language assistance is available. Those with further questions are encouraged to visit DOH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions webpage or talk to their trusted health care provider.

Second COVID-19 booster dose recommended for certain individuals

Additional mRNA dose will help further increase protection for those at highest risk

OLYMPIA – People age 50 and older and certain immunocompromised individuals can now get a second booster dose of an mRNA (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) COVID-19 vaccine at least four months after receiving their initial booster dose. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) updated its booster dose recommendations following guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

DOH’s updated booster dose recommendations are as follows:

  • Everyone 12 and older should receive a booster dose five months after completing their two-dose vaccine series of Pfizer or Moderna, or two months after receiving the single-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
  • Everyone 50 and older can receive a second booster dose four months after receiving their first booster dose.
  • Individuals 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised can receive a second booster dose four months after receiving their first booster dose.
  • Those 18 and older who received a primary vaccine and booster dose of the J&J vaccine four months ago can receive a second booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

“Giving certain individuals the opportunity to receive a second booster dose will help us protect those at highest risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19. It’s a great way for people over 50 to get added protection, especially those with underlying medical conditions and those 65 and older,” said Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer. “Boosters are safe and effective at preventing infection and severe illness. If you have not yet received your initial booster dose and you are eligible, get boosted as soon as possible.”

As of March 26, more than 2.7 million Washingtonians age 12 and older have received a booster dose, which is 58% of the eligible population. Of those age 50 and older, roughly 70% of the eligible population has received their first booster dose. This data can be found on DOH’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard under the “Vaccinations” tab.

To make a vaccine or booster appointment, visit Vaccine Locator, Vaccines.gov, or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 833-VAX-HELP. Language assistance is available. Those with further questions are encouraged to visit DOH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions webpage or talk to their trusted health care provider.

Many Uninsured People Could Lose Access to Free COVID-19 Testing, Treatment, and Vaccines as Federal Funding Runs Out

With an impasse in Congress over additional COVID-19 emergency funding, uninsured people could lose access to free testing and treatment services, a new KFF brief explains.

For people without health insurance, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) COVID-19 Uninsured Program has reimbursed hospitals, doctors and other providers for the COVID-19 care and services that they provide to uninsured people. However, with federal funds running out, the program is no longer accepting new claims for testing and treatment services and will stop accepting claims for administering vaccines on April 5.

Many uninsured individuals would likely need to pay out of pocket for testing and some treatment services or rely on safety-net providers absorbing those additional costs without any way to get reimbursed. So long as supplies remain available, vaccines would continue to be paid for by the federal government and people could not be charged, but vaccine providers would not get paid for administering vaccines to uninsured people and could restrict access. This could exacerbate existing racial and ethnic disparities, as people of color are more likely than their White counterparts to be uninsured and face other potential barriers to accessing care.

The brief also outlines how the federal government has used previously authorized funds to purchase COVID-19 tests, medications, and vaccines, and the implications for efforts to help ensure equitable access to and ongoing availability of these resources as that funding runs out.

For people with health coverage, including Medicare and Medicaid, existing rules and protections will ensure that they will continue to have access to COVID-19 tests, treatment, and vaccines, though some limits on cost sharing will end when the ongoing federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends. If the federal government is no longer able to pre-purchase tests, treatment medications, and vaccines, supplies may run short if and when the next COVID-19 wave hits and demand increases.

Why Pregnant People Were Left Behind While Vaccines Moved at ‘Warp Speed’ to Help the Masses

Kia Slade was seven months pregnant, unvaccinated, and fighting for breath, her oxygen levels plummeting, when her son came into the world last May.

A severe case of covid pneumonia had left Slade delirious. When the intensive care team tried to place an oxygen mask on her face, she snatched it away, she recalled. Her baby’s heart rate began to drop.

Slade’s doctor performed an emergency cesarean section at her bedside in the intensive care unit, delivering baby Tristan 10 weeks early. He weighed just 2 pounds, 14 ounces, about half the size of small full-term baby.

But Slade wouldn’t meet him until July. She was on a ventilator in a medically induced coma for eight weeks, and she developed a serious infection and blood clot while unconscious. It was only after a perilous 2½ months in the hospital, during which her heart stopped twice, that Slade was vaccinated against covid-19.

“I wish I had gotten the vaccine earlier,” said Slade, 42, who remains too sick to return to work as a special education teacher in Baltimore. Doctors “kept pushing me to get vaccinated, but there just wasn’t enough information out there for me to do it.”

A year ago, there was little to no vaccine safety data for pregnant people like Slade, because they had been excluded from clinical trials run by Pfizer, Moderna, and other vaccine makers.

Lacking data, health experts were unsure and divided about how to advise expectant parents. Although U.S. health officials permitted pregnant people to be vaccinated, the World Health Organization in January 2021 actually discouraged them from doing so; it later reversed that recommendation.

Read the full article from KFF.

Some immunocompromised individuals should receive four doses of COVID-19 vaccine

A fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine can help some people with weakened immune systems be less likely to catch COVID-19 and get severely ill. Certain individuals who are immunocompromised may receive up to four doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which includes two primary doses of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), an additional primary dose, and a booster dose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people ages 5 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should get an additional primary shot (third dose) of an mRNA vaccine 28 days after receiving their second dose. An additional primary shot may prevent serious and possibly life-threatening COVID-19 in people who may not have responded well to their two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine primary series. Currently, no additional primary shot is recommended for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Everyone 12 years of age and older, including immunocompromised people, should get a booster shot when they are eligible. Those who received Pfizer or Moderna should get a booster 5 months after completing their primary series and people who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster 2 months after their first dose.

“COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, but some immunocompromised individuals don’t get strong enough immunity following their initial two-dose series,” said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer. “Receiving an additional primary dose and a booster dose will help protect those who are more susceptible to the disease. Getting everyone up to date on all vaccine doses they are eligible to receive can also help protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”

According to the CDC, people are considered moderately or severely immunocompromised if they have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress their immune system.

People should talk to their trusted healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional primary shot is appropriate for them. For more information, visit the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Washington State Department of Health’s website.

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines now recommended over Johnson & Johnson

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is recommending people 18 and older choose to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) instead of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. This update follows guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. Individuals who wish to receive the J&J vaccine are encouraged to reach out to their health care provider to discuss their options as J&J will still be available across the state.

The preferential recommendation follows new data presented to the ACIP about thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. TTS is a rare but serious condition involving blood clots and a low blood platelet count seen in some people who received the J&J vaccine. However, the risk is rare. Nationwide, 54 cases of TTS, including nine confirmed deaths, have been reported, which is a fraction of a percent of the 14 million doses of J&J given overall. While TTS has been seen in both men and women, the most at-risk group is women 30 through 49. People who received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.

Of the more than 11.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine given out across Washington, about 436,000 doses have been the J&J vaccine, which equals about 4%. According to data reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through Nov. 30, there have been six possible cases of TTS following J&J vaccinations in Washington, including one death.

“Public health and safety are, and will always be, our top priorities, which is why we are adopting this new guidance,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “Today, more than 5 million Washingtonians are fully vaccinated, which means they are protecting themselves from serious illness, hospitalization, and death. I continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated and, with this news, boosted with an mRNA vaccine as soon as possible.”

Omicron Variant Increases Worries and Gives Momentum to COVID-19 Booster Shots

The emergence of the omicron COVID-19 variant is encouraging many already vaccinated adults to get a recommended booster shot but is providing only a little motivation for unvaccinated adults to get an initial shot, a new KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor quick response survey finds.

Fielded from Dec. 15-20 to provide an early look at omicron’s potential impact on the public’s vaccination intentions, the survey finds that about half (54%) of vaccinated adults who haven’t gotten a booster dose say news of the omicron variant will make them more likely to do so.

Omicron’s emergence appears to be having a much smaller, but not insignificant, effect on unvaccinated adults. The survey finds that 12% of those who are unvaccinated say it makes them more likely to get an initial shot, but a much larger share (87%) say it does not make them more likely to do.

Read the full article from KFF.