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Booster shots could soon be recommended for people as young as 40, source says

<i>Emily Elconin/Reuters</i><br/>A nurse sanitizes a patient's arm before administering a Covid-19 vaccine booster during a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield
Emily Elconin/Reuters
A nurse sanitizes a patient's arm before administering a Covid-19 vaccine booster during a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield

By Elizabeth Cohen, Holly Yan and Madeline Holcombe, CNN

Booster protection could soon expand to a much broader population, as a source says the US government likely will soon recommend additional doses to people as young as 40 who received a Moderna or Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

“I believe it will happen,” the source familiar with the plan told CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen. There is “growing concern within the FDA” that US data is beginning to show more hospitalizations among people under age 65 who have been fully vaccinated, the source said.

Still, Americans who haven’t been vaccinated are 18 times more likely to end up hospitalized with Covid-19 than those who are vaccinated, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unvaccinated people are also 11 times more likely to die from Covid-19 compared to vaccinated people, Walensky said Wednesday. They were also six times more likely to test positive for Covid-19.

“In August, as we were experiencing the peak of the Delta surge, 16 jurisdictions provided data on cases and deaths stratified by vaccination status. Unvaccinated people had 6.1 times greater risk of testing positive for Covid-19,” the CDC director said.

Roughly 57.1% of the US population is fully vaccinated, according to CDC data published Wednesday. Booster shots account for about 40% of doses administered nationwide daily, according to the data, with about 1.3 times as many boosters administered each day than first shots.

FDA authorizes more boosters

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized booster doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and said any of the three authorized vaccines could be used as a booster in a “mix and match approach” for eligible individuals.

The agency gave emergency use authorization for boosters of Moderna’s vaccine for people fully vaccinated at least six months ago who are also at least 65, or who are at least 18 and are high risk of severe Covid-19, or have frequent exposure to the virus.

Meanwhile, a booster for the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be administered at least two months after the initial shot to anyone 18 and older, the FDA said.

“The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated,” FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease.”

Last month, the FDA authorized Pfizer booster shots for people in certain high-risk groups who got their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago. That includes people age 65 and older; adults with health conditions that put them at high risk for severe Covid-19; and adults who live or work in places that put them at high risk of contracting Covid-19.

The FDA would consider lowering the age range on its emergency use authorizations for booster shots once more safety data comes in, officials told reporters on Wednesday.

“It’s a matter of having the data,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s vaccine arm. “We want to make sure that if we deploy the boosters in all of the age ranges, that we truly are making a benefit outweigh any risk.”

Getting younger kids vaccinated will ‘play a major role’ in slowing Covid-19 spread, Fauci says

About 28 million children ages 5 to 11 might soon be able to get pediatric doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine if the US Food and Drug Administration authorizes shots for that age group and if the CDC recommends it.

Getting most children vaccinated against Covid-19 will “play a major role” in slowing the spread of disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

“In the era of Delta, children get infected as readily as adults do. And they transmit the infection as readily as adults do,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“If we can get the overwhelming majority of those 28 million children vaccinated, I think that would play a major role in diminishing the spread of infection,” Fauci said at a White House Covid-19 briefing.

“That’s one of the reasons why we want to do as best as we can to get those children from 5 to 11 vaccinated.”

Schools try testing instead of isolating exposed students

While some schools have enforced strict quarantine and isolation policies for children who are exposed to the virus, the CDC is working with select school districts to evaluate test-to-stay programs.

Such programs first involve testing — not quarantining — students who may have been exposed to Covid-19 at school.

If the exposed students test negative and have no symptoms, they can continue going to school in person. If they test positive, they must isolate at home.

“In Marietta, we have been tracking students who are testing positive through test-to-stay, and it’s 3%,” Grant Rivera, superintendent of Marietta City Schools in Georgia, told CNN this week.

“Three percent of our students who participate in test-to-stay test positive, which means we can keep 97% of them in class,” Rivera said. “That is a measure of success.”

Under a traditional quarantine program, the 97% of students who tested negative would still stay at home from school.

“I think for the foreseeable future, we will be out here every morning on a school day making sure that our kids have this option,” Rivera said about test-to-stay.

The CDC notes on its website that test-to-stay may be a practice comprised of regular testing and contact tracing, but that’s also while “maintaining other layered prevention strategies, such as universal masking, to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Maggie Fox, Jamie Gumbrecht, Deidre McPhillips and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.

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