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Expanded COVID-19 Booster and Third Shot Guidance

Pfizer-BioNTech booster approved for children 12-15, third shot available for immunocompromised age 5-11, and all Pfizer boosters available five months after second shot

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Updated guidance on boosters and third shots

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization for several new booster initiatives and a third shot for younger people, which have been supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Booster shots now available for children age 12-15: Children who received the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot at least five months ago are now eligible for their booster by appointment only at all Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) COVID-19 vaccine clinic locations.

Third shot available for children age 5-11 who are immunocompromised: A third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine also is available to children between the ages of 5 and 11 who are immunocompromised.

Shorter interval for Pfizer-BioNTech booster: Those who completed the two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are now eligible for a booster shot five months after their second shot, rather than six months. This change does not apply to people who received the Moderna mRNA vaccine or Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Moderna boosters are still recommended six months after the completion of the initial vaccine series. Those who received an initial single dose of the J&J vaccine should be boosted with either Moderna or Pfizer two months after their initial shot.

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) began offering the boosters and third shots for these age groups Thursday, Jan. 6.

“Preliminary research has shown that booster shots help strengthen our protection against new variants of COVID-19, like omicron,” said J. Nathan Hagstrom, MD, Chief of Pediatrics at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital. “Data suggest that levels of protection from the initial series can decrease with time. Offering the Pfizer booster shot at five months instead of six months after the initial series provides significant reduction in risk of acute illness and other complications of COVID-19.”

While teenagers and children are less likely to be severely affected by COVID-19 than individuals in older age groups, they can still become infected, experience symptoms from the disease and need to be hospitalized. “Last week, the highest number of children from our network tested positive for COVID-19: more than 1,300 children. This is more than twice what we saw the first week of December,” said Hagstrom. “And at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital, hospitalizations for children with COVID also have doubled since November. Vaccinations, booster shots and third shots for those who are eligible are the best ways kids can be protected from severe COVID infection.”

Possible side effects of booster shots

The most common side effects of the booster vaccine are mild and resolve within a few days. They include:

  • Pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the underarm

While there have been cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (swelling of the outer lining of the heart) in this age group (mainly in boys) after vaccination, these are rare side effects. With prompt medical treatment and rest, these cases typically resolve quickly.

The FDA took these cases into account when considering EUA for this age group and determined that the benefits of the booster significantly outweigh the risk.

“The risk for myocarditis and pericarditis is much higher if these children develop COVID-19,” Hagstrom said. “In addition, they are at risk of developing other medical complications from COVID-19, including life-threatening conditions like MIS-C and some of the chronic symptoms of long COVID.”

How to schedule

There are two easy ways to schedule an appointment for your booster:

  1. Go to MyLVHN, the health network’s patient portal:

    Sign In Sign Up

    You may need to request proxy access to your child’s MyLVHN account to schedule your child’s appointment. To do so, please contact your child’s provider. If your child does not have an LVHN provider, please call 888-402-LVHN (5846).
  1. Call our COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 833-584-6283 (833-LVHN-CVD). We’re open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

For more vaccination information, visit LVHN.org/vaccines.

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