Roundup: First COVID-19 Booster for Kids 5-11; Vast Majority of Those with Long COVID were Not Hospitalized; and CDC’s Updated Travel Guidance

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May 20, 2022

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FDA Authorizes First COVID-19 Booster for Children Ages 5 to 11

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine booster for children ages 5 to 11. The authorization means all children in this age group who received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least five months ago can receive their third shot.

Pfizer-BioNTech provided the FDA with the findings of a study that demonstrated a booster for children in this age range is safe and can significantly boost antibody levels.

The FDA said the safety of a single booster dose of the vaccine in this age group was assessed in about 400 children who received a booster dose at least five months (range 5 to 9 months) after completing a two-dose primary series. The most commonly reported side effects were pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, as well as fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain and chills and fever.

“While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer term effects, even following initially mild disease,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., in a statement. “The FDA is authorizing the use of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age to provide continued protection against COVID-19.

Until now, only children ages 12 and older and adults were eligible for a booster.

“The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is effective in helping to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19 in individuals 5 years of age and older,” said Peter Marks, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement. “Since authorizing the vaccine for children down to 5 years of age in October 2021, emerging data suggest that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 wanes after the second dose of the vaccine in all authorized populations.”

New Analysis: 76% of Adults with Long COVID were Not Sick Enough to be Hospitalized

The vast majority (76 percent) of adults diagnosed with “long COVID” — or symptoms that linger months past initial infection — were not sick enough with the coronavirus to be hospitalized, according to an analysis of tens of thousands of private insurance claims.

The prevalence of Long COVID is concerning to public health officials and U.S. healthcare systems. Previous studies have already indicated that severe illness at the onset of infection was not reported among many Long COVID sufferers.

The new analysis, conducted by FAIR Health, a nonprofit organization, is the largest yet to find that people with mild or moderate initial coronavirus infections — or the majority of COVID patients — can still experience lingering and serious symptoms including breathing issues, extreme fatigue and cognitive or memory impairments. Estimates of the rate of long COVID has ranged from 10 to 30 percent of infected U.S. adults.

Based on what is described as the largest database of private health insurance claims in the U.S., researchers found 78,252 patients who were diagnosed with the new code from the International Classification of Diseases — diagnostic code U09.9 for “Post COVID-19 condition, unspecified” — between Oct. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022.

The three diagnoses most commonly co-occurring with a long COVID diagnosis in patients across all ages and genders were “abnormalities of breathing (23.2 percent of patients with post-COVID conditions), cough (18.9 percent) and malaise and fatigue (16.7 percent).” The age group, 36 to 50, was the most likely to be diagnosed with long COVID (35 percent of patients).

Females were more likely than males to be diagnosed with long COVID, making up 60 percent of the patient population.

CDC Updates Domestic U.S. Travel Guidance, Urges Testing Before Departure

With an anticipated busy summer travel season around the corner, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week updated its COVID-19 guidance for domestic travel, urging everyone take a test before departure, regardless of vaccination status.

In its revised guidelines, the CDC states that anyone traveling within the U.S. to “consider getting tested as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) before your trip.”  The CDC previously only recommended testing before domestic travel for those not up-to-date on their COVID vaccinations.

After returning home, travelers should get tested again ” if your trip involved situations with greater risk of exposure such as being in crowded places while not wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator,” the CDC added.

The updated guidance comes as airline traffic is expected to be at its busiest since the summer of 2019, the last full summer travel season before the pandemic. Additionally, COVID cases are increasing across much of the nation. 

Here is the CDC’ guidance for travelers coming to the United States:

Air passengers (2 years or older): Before boarding a flight to the United States, show a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 1 day before travel, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Foreign nationals have an additional requirement for proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

All travelers: Get tested 3 to 5 days after arrival in the United States.

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