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COVID-19 vaccine boosters, mixing vaccines, and eligibility for kids 5 to 11

Child getting a bandage on his arm after being vaccinated

EDITOR’S NOTE: This information is accurate as of Oct. 25, 2021. Guidance and recommendations on COVID-19 vaccines continue to be updated. Please check the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine page for the latest information.

Though it can feel that vaccine news sometimes moves slowly, many things are happening at the federal level to review data and research to answer key questions about the COVID-19 vaccines moving forward. Check out what’s been happening and what’s next for getting booster doses, mixing vaccines and getting kids ages 5 to 11 vaccinated.

Boosters

On Oct. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation and FDA’s authorization for the following groups to be eligible for a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine:

For those who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, boosters can be given six months or more after the second dose. Anyone who received an initial dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can get a booster two months or more after their first dose.

Bottom line: Nearly anyone who wants a booster dose can get one from any location that is offering a COVID-19 vaccine. There is no IU requirement to get a booster, and the CDC’s guidance is a recommendation for the above populations. If you’re wondering whether a booster dose is right for you, talk with your primary care provider.

Mixing vaccines

Also included in the CDC’s guidance issued on Oct. 21 was the OK to mix and match vaccines. This came following the FDA’s authorization for the use of “heterologous booster doses,” which means that regardless of which vaccine you started with, you can get any one you choose for a booster.

The timing of your booster does, however, depend on which vaccine you initially received. If you started with Pfizer or Moderna, you’ll need to wait at least six months from your last dose. If you had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to start, your wait time is two months after your dose for a booster.

Bottom line: There are no specific guidelines for which combo of vaccines is best, so it comes down to a personal choice or having a discussion with your primary care provider. All three vaccines continue to work very well against preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death, which is the primary goal of any vaccine.

Eligibility for kids 5 to 11

The FDA is scheduled to meet Oct. 26 to review data and research on the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. Assuming the FDA authorizes Pfizer’s vaccine for use in this age group, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will then meet Nov. 2 and 3 to review the data and make its own recommendation. That recommendation goes to the CDC director, who will then make the final recommendation.

If the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the vaccine for children age 5 to 11, and the CDC director agrees, pediatrician offices and other community vaccine sites would begin vaccinating kids in this population. We may also see planning at the federal level in collaboration with children’s hospitals to get the vaccine out to newly eligible kids.

Bottom line: Important meetings at the federal level start this week to decide whether Pfizer’s vaccine will be authorized for kids 5 to 11. It’s expected that everything will be authorized and then recommended by the CDC, which will allow parents to get some younger kids this long-awaited vaccine.

Amanda Roach is a senior communications consultant in the Office of the Vice President for Communications and Marketing.