FDA authorizes vax for kids, CDC expands eligibility for boosters

— From the NYS Governor's Office
Governor Kathy Hochul demonstrates the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. Eligibility has been expanded.

ALBANY COUNTY — As anticipated by the county health commissioner, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

On Friday evening, Governor Kathy Hochul issued a statement, responding to an appeal the state brought after the mandate for vaccination of health-care workers was challenged in court.

“On Day One, I pledged as Governor to battle this pandemic and take bold action to protect the health of all New Yorkers,” said Hochul. “I commend the Second Circuit’s findings affirming our first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate, and I will continue to do everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe.”


FDA authorization

The FDA said that the immune responses in the 5-to-11 age group were comparable to those of people 16 to 25 years of age and the vaccine was found to be 90.7-percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

The vaccine’s safety was studied in about 3,100 children with no serious side effects detected in the ongoing study.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet next week to discuss further clinical recommendations.

The vaccine is administered as a two-dose primary series, three weeks apart, but is a lower dose — 10 micrograms as opposed to 30 micrograms given to people 12 and older.

In the United States, the FDA said, COVID-19 cases in children 5 through 11 years of age make up 39 percent of cases in individuals younger than 18.

According to the CDC, approximately 8,300 COVID-19 cases in children 5 through 11 years old resulted in hospitalization. As of Oct. 17, in the United States, 691 deaths from COVID-19 have been people younger than 18 years old, with 146 deaths in the 5-through-11-years age group.

“As a mother and a physician, I know that parents, caregivers, school staff, and children have been waiting for today’s authorization. Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. in a statement.

On Monday, Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen had said that, once the CDC gives its guidance, the county will hold in-school vaccination clinics and her department is also encouraging pediatricians to administer the shots because parents often feel more comfortable in their doctors’ offices.

She urged parents to get their children vaccinated noting that, once a child is fully vaccinated, he or she would not need to be quarantined after coming into contact with an ill child.


CDC expands booster eligibility

In other recent COVID-19 vaccine developments, the CDC added “mental health” to the list of conditions that qualify Americans for booster shots of vaccine.

“Having mood disorders, including depression, and schizophrenia spectrum disorders can make you more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19,” the CDC said.

The CDC also updated its guidance so that people with weakened immune systems who have received a booster shot for a messenger RNA vaccine — Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna — will now be eligible for a fourth dose of any of the three authorized vaccines six month after the first booster shot.

“COVID-19 vaccination (initial doses and boosters) and preventive measures for COVID-19 are important, especially if you are older or have multiple or severe health conditions,” says the CDC guidance on “People with Certain Medical Conditions.”

Locally, in his daily release on Friday, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy also continued to push residents to get vaccinated as he announced 122 new cases of COVID-19. There are now 538 active cases in the county, up from 512 on Thursday.

“Today is the third consecutive day of increasing numbers of new daily COVID cases in the triple digits. As the virus continues to spread at this rate, I’m urging everyone to stay vigilant ahead of Halloween celebrations,” said McCoy in the release. “It was around this time last year when temperatures started to drop and we saw the beginning of the winter surge of infections.

“The best way we can prevent another winter spike this year is by getting more people vaccinated, getting more booster shots in arms, and wearing masks indoors and at large gatherings.”

The CDC continues to label Albany County as having a high rate of transmission with 175.12 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 3.89 percent, which means masks should be worn indoors in public regardless of vaccination status.

As of Thursday, 72.5 percent of all Albany County residents have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, and 66.7 percent have been fully vaccinated.

On Saturday, Nov. 6, from 10 a.m. to noon, a free vaccination clinic will be held at Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School at 1793 Helderberg Trail in Berne. First, second, and third doses of Pfizer and Moderna will be administered as will first and booster doses of Johnson & Johnson.

The number of Albany County residents under quarantine increased to 1,078 from 1,026. 

McCoy reported that there were five new hospitalizations since Thursday, and there are now a total of 39 county residents currently hospitalized with the coronavirus — a net increase of two. Nine of those hospital patients are in intensive-care units, unchanged from Thursday.

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