Booster authorization for kids over 12 to help fight current coronavirus wave
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Many local classrooms reopen today after the holiday break in the midst of yet another wave of coronavirus cases, many coming from the contagious Omicron variant. But this morning, the FDA made an announcement on booster shots for children here to tell us more about it is Dr. Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease specialist with Brady children's hospital and UC San Diego Sawyer is also a member of the county's vaccine advisory board. Dr. Sawyer. Welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:28)
Good to join you. So this
Speaker 1: (00:30)
Morning, the FDA announced it authorized booster shots for children ages 12 to 16. What are the guidelines for this age group that could soon be eligible for the booster?
Speaker 2: (00:41)
Well, we're still waiting for official guidelines. Typically after the FDA approves a vaccine for a new age group, the CDC weighs in on exactly who in that age group should receive the vaccine. And the CDC is scheduled to have their advisory committee meet on Wednesday to, to do just that. So I think by Wednesday or Thursday, we will have specific guidelines, but this is good news for younger kids, cuz we can now protect them better from the Berry.
Speaker 1: (01:10)
What about boosters for children younger than 12? Have they been approved?
Speaker 2: (01:15)
No, we're not quite there yet. We just started routinely immunizing that age group in November. So we have a months before they would be eligible at least based on the current guidelines for older adolescents and adults where we're waiting five months after the last dose, before they get a booster.
Speaker 1: (01:33)
Are there any special circumstances for kids, uh, in that age group five to 12, perhaps immunocompromised or anything like that?
Speaker 2: (01:41)
Yes. Uh, it's a little confusing, but we usually distinguish a booster from a third dose. So people who have problems with their immune system like cancers or transplants, they are recommended to get a third dose instead of just two for their primary series of vaccination. That's been the case for adults and, and adolescents for many months. And now the CDE, the FDA is extending that down to five years of age. So this is not routine boosters. These are only for children who have underlying, uh, diseases that affect their immune system. And
Speaker 1: (02:17)
What is the state of authorizing boosters for kids between five and 12 years old?
Speaker 2: (02:22)
Well, I think we need to get some evidence, some data on how that works and, and whether there are any unexpected side effects. I don't anticipate that we will see that the current new recommendation to add boosters for 12 through 15 years of age was based in, in a large part on data from Israel, cuz Israel is ahead of us in their or booster campaign. So they had already generated some experience with boosters in the 12 through 15 to show that it was safe and that it worked
Speaker 1: (02:53)
Overall. What is the latest data for the vaccine rate of children in the San Diego region? Uh, have we seen an uptick in children vaccinations, uh, with this latest surge in cases
Speaker 2: (03:04)
We have certainly seen an uptick, but we are way behind in, in the five to 11 year old age bracket. I think the current estimate for San Diego county is only between 20 and 30% of kids in that age group have received the, the two doses of the vaccine. So we have a long ways to go. Particularly as school starts to reopen in kids' crowd back together in the classroom
Speaker 1: (03:29)
Are the new COVID cases, predominantly the OCN variant at this point.
Speaker 2: (03:34)
Uh, I actually haven't seen the latest data from the county, but in many parts of the country, OC has already taken over as the predominant strain. It is expected that it will do that here, if it hasn't already, because it is much more contagious than the Delta variant, which was our previous predominant strain.
Speaker 1: (03:52)
Do we know more about the Omicron variant today than we did before the holidays? And, and does it affect kids differently than other roti virus variants we've seen,
Speaker 2: (04:01)
We don't have any evidence that it affects children differently, but lots of children are getting infected because they're not yet immunized because they haven't been eligible to get immunized. So just like in adults, if you're UN immunized, you're much more likely to get infected. So we're seeing that in children, in terms of Omicron in general, it does seem so far like it's less severe than Delta, which is the good news. Many people are getting infected, but not so many are getting really sick or dying from the infection have
Speaker 1: (04:34)
Hospital rates for children increased over the holidays. Where do they stand? Now? They
Speaker 2: (04:38)
Have started to go up and certainly, uh, hospital rates and adult hospitals are, are starting to swell significantly so much so that we're worried about capacity again, just as we were in earlier peaks of COVID in our community. So we need to keep a close eye on that. People need to be careful, avoid crowds, indoors, wear a mask. And by all means get vaccines
Speaker 1: (05:02)
Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted the current wave of cases is expected to peak in the us at the end of January. Do we have any more information on when the peak of this surge is expected to hit San Diego?
Speaker 2: (05:16)
It's really hard to predict because it depends in part on the vaccination rate of the community and say, Diego is actually in pretty good shape compared to many other communities. We are seeing a rise in cases, but it would be worse if we had less people immunized. It's really difficult to predict, but I, I, it does seem like the peak will occur sometime in the January timeframe. And then go back down again before
Speaker 1: (05:41)
The holidays, we spoke about the state of the vaccine for children under five and how the dosage was likely to be adjusted to increased effectiveness in these younger children. Do you have any sense of when children under the age of five will be eligible for the vaccine?
Speaker 2: (05:56)
The Pfizer company that has the vaccine that's been studied the best so far in younger kids under five is adding a third dose to the group that got two doses and the two doses weren't enough to really provide protection for
Speaker 1: (06:10)
All the younger children. So we have to wait for that information and that typically takes two to three. So I think it's gonna be three to six months before we see vaccine in the younger age group, should children under the age of five, be in school or daycare right now, given the spread of this variant and their vaccination status.
Speaker 2: (06:30)
Yeah, that's an excellent question. At this point, schools are staying open, daycares are staying open. We we've learned a lot about how to prevent transmission. The, the good news is younger kids when they get infected, usually don't get severely ill, but they do serve as a source of infection for others in their family who may be. So that has to be decided, I think, on a school by school or daycare by daycare basis based on the population and, and how, how many infections they have, but
Speaker 1: (07:00)
Given your, your background, do you think it's a good idea?
Speaker 2: (07:03)
I think it's still reasonable to send young kids to school, particularly if they're old enough to wear a mask, which keeps down the transmission rate. Uh, and we think children over two should be able to wear a mask, uh, much of the time or be outdoors. Certainly being outdoors is the best way to minimize chance of transmission.
Speaker 1: (07:23)
I've been speaking with Dr. Mark Sawyer, pediatric infectious disease expert with radi children's hospital and UC San Diego. Dr. Sawyer. Thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 2: (07:33)
Speaker 3: (07:38)
Monday morning, as many local schools reopened after the holiday break in the midst of another coronavirus wave, the FDA announced its authorization for booster shots in children ages 12 through 15.
The CDC must weigh in before the recommendation takes effect.
Pediatric infectious disease expert Dr. Mark Sawyer joined KPBS Midday Edition on Monday to talk about the latest news and what it means for San Diego kids.
"This is good news for younger kids cause we can now protect them better from the omicron variant," Sawyer said.
The Rady Children's Hospital pediatrician said that while more local children are getting vaccinated, roughly only about a quarter of children 5 to 11 years old have been fully vaccinated to this point.
"We have certainly seen an uptick, but we are way behind in the 5- to 11-year old age bracket," Sawyer said. "So we have a long ways to go, particularly as school starts to reopen and kids crowd back together in the classroom."