‘No Evidence Right Now’ Children Need COVID-19 Boosters: Top WHO Scientist

‘No Evidence Right Now’ Children Need COVID-19 Boosters: Top WHO Scientist
World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said there is no evidence currently available to support giving COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for children or adolescents.

“There’s no evidence right now that healthy children, or healthy adolescents, need boosters. No evidence at all,” she said at a WHO media briefing on Tuesday.

Swaminathan, an Indian pediatrician and clinical scientist, acknowledged there is evidence of waning immunity over time against the Omicron COVID-19 variant, which is highly contagious but has been less severe than previous variants. More research needs to be done to establish who needs booster doses, she said.

WHO’s advisory group, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), will meet later this week to discuss how countries should provide COVID-19 vaccine boosters, she told reporters.

“The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying. Those are our elderly populations, immunocompromised, people with underlying conditions, but also healthcare workers,” she said, adding later, “Our focus, considering that we still have so many unvaccinated people in the world, is to vaccinate, provide primary doses to those who have not been vaccinated so far.”

Countries that have begun offering boosters to children or adolescents include Israel, the United States, Germany, and Hungary.

Israel in August 2021 started offering boosters to children as young as 12 years old. Germany on Jan. 13 recommended children aged 12–17 receive a COVID-19 booster shots.

The United States’ drug regulator, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in early January 2022 authorized a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12–15 for emergency use.

Meanwhile, the FDA is delaying a decision on whether to grant Moderna an emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for those aged 12 to 17, having said in October 2021 it needs more time to further review the vaccine’s risk for myocarditis in this population.

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