This article appeared in The Petoskey News-Review. Read more here.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine – also known as the omicron booster – for children as young as five years old. The single-dose booster may be given at least two months after children and adults complete the primary or other booster vaccinations.
The omicron booster has replaced the original COVID-19 booster formulas. Similar to how flu shots are updated annually, the booster contains components from the original virus strain as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 variants. Previously approved for anyone 12 years and older, the younger age group was added Friday through the FDA amending emergency use authorizations for Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
The omicron booster includes components from the original virus strain and the BA.4 and BA.5 variants to provide better protection against COVID-19, according to the FDA. By including specific genetic material, the vaccine instructs cells in the body to make the distinctive “spike” protein of the original virus strain and the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants.
“Because of the medical advances, we are far from the pandemic state we faced in 2020 and 2021. The boosters, which now help children as young as five, are protecting people throughout the region and world,” said Dr. Joshua Meyerson, Health Department of Northwest Michigan medical director. “Anyone who has completed the primary series is now being offered the bivalent booster. With children back in school and people resuming pre-pandemic activities, it’s wise to remain diligent about protecting yourself and those around you.”
Based on interest, staff at the health department has added the omicron booster to the fall flu clinics. Because both vaccines may be given the same day, many residents are taking advantage of one stop, two vaccines. The agency’s central intake staff is answering calls and scheduling appointments. To keep up with demand, the health department has expanded the number of onsite clinics in all four counties. In response to invitations to bring teams into businesses, senior living facilities and schools, the health department is also staffing community-based clinics to make the vaccines more accessible. In October and November, there are about 50 flu/omicron booster clinics scheduled at health department sites. An additional 42 community-based clinics are in play: 12 at schools, 13 at businesses and 17 at senior-focused facilities.
To date, more than 6.8 million Michigan residents, ages 6 months and up, have gotten at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines.