How to get updated COVID boosters for kids

Updated COVID-19 boosters are now available for children aged 5+, giving parents the opportunity to step up their child’s protections during the crucial winter months.

The latest shots, specially formulated to target both the original strain of the coronavirus and the BA.5 Omicron subvariant that has dominated the US for months, are being offered at hundreds of locations across the state.

“As with the other COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses, the updated boosters are designed to protect individuals from the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” said Health and Human Services Minister Dr. Mark Ghaly, and Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s director of public health and state health commissioner, said in a joint statement.

“With the approval of the updated booster shot for people aged 5 and over, we are even closer to protecting the whole family as we head into the fall and winter, when the spread of respiratory viruses is at its peak.”

Here’s what you need to know:

When can anyone get the updated booster?

Children, like adults, must have completed their primary series of vaccinations and be at least two months from their last vaccination or conventional booster before receiving the booster vaccination.

What brands are there?

Both children and adults can choose between Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. Pfizer is available from 5 years old, while children from 6 years old can get Moderna.

Officials note that the booster brand doesn’t have to match your primary series. For example, someone originally vaccinated with Moderna can choose either this offering or Pfizer.

How can I make an appointment?

Parents can book immunization appointments for their children through the government’s MyTurn.ca.gov platform or by calling (833) 422-4255. Walk-in clinics are also available and can be searched through the state website.

In Los Angeles County, officials plan to begin offering the updated Pfizer boosters for children ages 5 and up at an estimated 625 locations as early as Wednesday. Residents can search for locations at VaccinateLACounty.com. At some locations, the Moderna Shots are already available for ages 6 and up.

“Of the nearly 900,000 children ages 5 to 11 in LA County, there are over 500,000 children who have not yet received their primary series,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health. “A child can now receive their primary vaccination course and then two months after their last dose receive the bivalent booster. This provides significant protection from Omicron during the upcoming winter holidays.”

Who checked the boosters?

Like previous COVID-19 vaccines, the boosters were reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which last week gave the green light to younger children to get the updated shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then officially recommended people ages 5 and older to get an updated booster if eligible.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a coalition of public health experts from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, also reviewed and officially endorsed the federal recommendation last week.

Why should I get the new booster vaccine for myself or my child?

Officials note that the updated bivalent boosters are specifically designed against the dominant version of the coronavirus circulating nationwide. This provides more targeted protection, similar to the annual flu shot.

“We are aware that after almost two years of receiving different doses of the vaccine, many of us are confused as to what we need to do to be well protected,” Ferrer said. “It’s relatively simple: If it has been more than two months since your last booster dose or your first series of vaccinations, you are eligible for the new bivalent booster dose, which is the only vaccine that offers increased protection against Omicron.”

Immunity also declines over time, whether from vaccination or previous coronavirus infection, and regular boosters are one of the best ways to restore that protection.

“We understand there may be COVID fatigue, but we cannot let go of our vigilance,” California’s Department of Health and Human Services wrote in a statement to The Times. “Our statewide COVID-19 immunization campaign continues to work with community partners across the state to emphasize the importance of staying current on their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.”

So far, many parents have chosen not to vaccinate their younger children. About 41% of California’s 5- to 11-year-olds have received at least one dose — a proportion that falls far short of any other age group, according to state data compiled by The Times.

“While it was largely true that COVID-19 tended to be less severe in children than adults, as the different waves of COVID-19 have emerged, more children have contracted the disease and been hospitalized,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccine chief, said in a statement last week. “Long-term effects can also occur in children, even after initially mild illness.”

As children “have personally gone back to school and people are resuming their pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” he added.

“Vaccination remains the most effective measure to prevent the serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” Marks said.

What about the timing of the shots?

As the packed fall and winter holiday season approaches, some residents might consider timing their recordings to ensure maximum protection.

Officials note that it takes two weeks for the booster to take full effect. Maximum effectiveness is likely to be reached in the four or five months following injection, with maximum effectiveness being achieved one month after injection, said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong in a previous interview.

Given that timeline, many officials say now is the time to step up.

“A lot of times you hear about people trying to time their vaccines — they’re waiting until flu cases have gone up or until we’re in the middle of a COVID surge,” Ferrer said. “Getting your bivalent COVID booster and flu vaccine now before there’s another winter wave is your very best protection.”

How was the demand?

According to the California Department of Health and Human Services, as of Oct. 11, just over 2.1 million people nationwide had received the bivalent booster. In comparison, 21.9 million people – about 78% of all vaccinated recipients – are at least six months away from their last dose.

“The risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection remains as a number of Californians remain unvaccinated and unboosted,” the state health department wrote in its statement. “Real-world evidence shows that the COVID-19 vaccines protect people from serious illness, hospitalization and death. Public health officials are urging Californians to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as they are eligible.”

Robust vaccine uptake would likely help mitigate the impact of a potential coronavirus resurgence later this year, officials and experts say. While pandemic conditions have steadily improved in recent months, the two worst COVID-19 waves in history struck both in autumn and winter, when the combination of colder temperatures and busy social and holiday calendars prompted many to travel and engage to gather indoors.

“Increasing the number of people boosted with the bivalent booster gives us the greatest hope of avoiding the disruption and devastation associated with the previous two winter floods,” Ferrer said.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-18/how-to-get-updated-covid-boosters-for-kids How to get updated COVID boosters for kids

Alley Einstein

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