FDA authorizes Pfizer booster for kids: What this means for family summer travel

May 17, 2022

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In much-awaited news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the administration of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine boosters in children ages 5-11, paving the way for families to access booster shots for children in this age range ahead of summer travel.

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Pending approval by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is expected on Thursday, children in this age group will be eligible to receive a booster dose starting at the five-month mark following their completion of the two-dose primary vaccine series.

The rollout of the booster shot begins once the CDC signs off on authorization. That means parents of children ages 5-11 who want a booster sooner rather than later should keep an eye out for the ability to make booster appointments in the coming days.

Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is available at large-scale pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, in addition to some primary care providers, at no cost in certain locations based on eligibility and insurance.

Boosters have been available to those ages 12-15 since January, but this would be the first time kids 5-11 would be eligible.

The U.S. government has not yet authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 years of age.

“While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer term effects, even following initially mild disease,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in a statement. “The FDA is authorizing the use of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age to provide continued protection against COVID-19.”

Related: A country-by-country guide to where you can travel with no COVID-19 test and/or vaccine required

Many Americans remain hesitant to travel internationally out of fear of testing positive and getting stuck in a foreign country since the U.S. remains one of just a few countries still requiring travelers to take a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel to enter.

Additionally, note that while we have seen an increase in the number of places with booster entry requirements, at least up until now, kids are often either exempt or subject to slightly different rules that may lean on testing or entering with a fully vaccinated parent. Germany, for example, allows unvaccinated travelers under 12 to enter alongside vaccinated adults by submitting a negative COVID-19 test before flying. Of course, this may continue to evolve as time goes by.

Within the European Union specifically, countries have introduced policies limiting the length a vaccine is good for, such as 180, 210 or 270 days. This means that after a certain amount of time, a booster will be required, at least for adults. Be sure to check the entry requirements related to specific countries to verify what constitutes “fully vaccinated,” which the U.S. Embassy outlines for most countries.

In addition to countries, some cruise lines, including Lindblad Expeditions, Silversea Cruises and Azamara, require most passengers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot before sailing.

Bottom line

According to CDC data, less than 30% of children 5-11 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, for those who have, a booster might not be a bad idea.

The FDA says that the effectiveness provided by the vaccine against COVID-19 wanes over time following one’s second dose, for all vaccinated persons. Therefore, the agency says the benefits of a single booster dose for children ages 5-11 outweigh any potential risks.

Related: Traveling to France? Here’s what to know about booster and testing requirements

Featured photo by Phynart Studio/Getty Images.

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