Have you heard anything about when boosters might be approved for children ages 12 to 17?

Families/Kids Vaccines

A: No Melissa, we haven’t heard anything about boosters coming for children aged 12-17 in the United States. But the magic 8-ball says it’s coming soon. 🎱

“Booster” vaccines remind our immune systems what the bad guy looks like, and they’re often used in cases where the initial introduction doesn’t make a very strong impression. Or, when the immune system “forgets” what to watch out for after a while.

It’s still pretty unclear just how long it takes a healthy immune system to forget the lessons learned from the primary vaccine series or even after getting COVID-19. Most studies so far have been small or focused on adults with compromised immune systems. This past week, a not-yet-peer-reviewed (but reliable) study came out showing that among UK adults, a booster dose performed extremely well at preventing breakthrough infections. U.S. regulatory agencies haven’t had time to respond to this yet, and benefits–as always–must be balanced against the risks.

Risks for boosters seem to be extremely low. We have seen no big safety issues. However, we have only just begun to roll out the booster shots in younger adult men, the group where we would expect to see problematic myocarditis rates–if we see them at all.

So, basically there is a lot still to learn about boosters.

That said, as a matter of policy, the United States isn’t doing much *besides* vaccination to prevent a winter surge at this point. Many places are not requiring masks or not enforcing mask requirements; contact tracing is a fond memory; improving ventilation through infrastructure investment isn’t part of the conversation. People still don’t get paid time off if they get sick or have a known exposure.

And testing & surveillance are still maddeningly poor. We’re not tracking breakthrough infections or reinfections. We don’t track variants well. Rapid testing is not available to most people. Major healthcare systems who shall remain unnamed here are only testing people if they’re symptomatic.

So… given the apparent single-pillar COVID-19 response, we are betting that adolescent boosters will be discussed by FDA before long.

One thing we do know: you aren’t the only parent with this question. Israel just approved boosters for 12-15 year-olds this past week, and the FDA will be following those data carefully to see what we can learn from it. Though there is no FDA or CDC meeting scheduled to talk about boosters for adolescents right now, we probably won’t have to wait too long.

Helpful context for what we know (and don’t know) here

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