The new COVID-19 booster vaccine is safe for young children and babies, according to Dr. Sarah Combs of Children's National Hospital in DC.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisors endorsed new vaccines for everyone six months or older, and the agency's director quickly approved the panel's recommendation earlier this month.
"The main difference parents should know is that children's doses are lower than adult doses," Combs said.
There are three age groups taken into account with the updated booster: a small dose is given to those between six months and four years old, a medium dose is given to children between five and 11 years old and everyone over 12 years old receives an adult-sized dose.
"We want parents to know that if they get their six-month-old baby, they will receive a dose that is safe for them, that has been shown to be safe and effective for a baby," Combs said.
The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has faded since 2020, but there are still thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths in the United States each week.
Hospitalizations have increased since late summer, although the latest data from the CDC indicate that infections may be beginning to stabilize, particularly in the south.
Still, experts worry that immunity from vaccines and previous infections is fading in many people, and that a new vaccine would save many lives.
“We always talk about this concept of herd immunity and we want to try to continue to protect ourselves, our elders, our young people and our vulnerable or immunocompromised patients,” he said. "The more vaccines we have on board, the more we can protect everyone around us."
According to a survey last month cited by the CDC, about 42% of respondents said they would definitely or probably get the new vaccine. However, only about 20% of adults received an updated booster shot when it was offered a year ago.
Doctors hope enough people get vaccinated to help prevent another “tripledemic” like last year, when hospitals were overwhelmed by an early flu season, an attack of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and another winter coronavirus surge.