WASHINGTON — Federal regulators on Wednesday broadened access to updated coronavirus booster shots to incorporate children as young as 5, hoping to bolster protection against the now-dominant version of the virus.
The revised shot developed by Pfizer-BioNTech previously had been cleared for those 12 and older, while Moderna’s updated booster was available only to those 18 and older. The motion by the Food and Drug Administration will expand access to Pfizer’s shot to children as young as 5, and to Moderna’s shot to children 6 and older.
“Since children have gone back to highschool in person and persons are resuming prepandemic behaviors and activities, there’s the potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the agency’s top vaccine regulator. While Covid-19 is often less severe in children than adults, he said, “more children have gotten sick with the disease and have been hospitalized” because the pandemic has progressed.
After the F.D.A.’s motion, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quickly approved distribution of the booster shots, the ultimate step to make them available to children across the country.
The brand new boosters are authorized for administration at the least two months after a baby has accomplished the initial two-shot series or received a booster dose. Regulators authorized the shots for older age groups in late August, but much of the overall population appears either unaware or bored with them.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, estimated on Tuesday that 13 million to fifteen million Americans had received the updated shots through last weekend. Nearly 226 million people have received an initial round of vaccination, and greater than 110 million have received at the least one booster shot.