Should I Get My Child Pfizer's New Omicron Booster Shot?

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Key Takeaways

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended COVID-19 booster shots targeting the BA.4/BA.5 COVID-19 variant.
  • This vaccine will be available for kids 12 and up who have completed their primary series, as well as kids in this age group who have received a previous booster.
  • An updated booster for kids aged 11 years and younger is expected to be unveiled in the weeks following the authorization of this new booster, according to the CDC.

There's a new weapon in the battle against COVID-19. On September 1, 2022, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on its advisory panel's recommended use of COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

It comes just weeks after Pfizer and Moderna both applied for emergency use authorizations (EUA) for their boosters which target the BA.4/BA.5 variants. Moderna's Bivalent booster is for use in people 18 and older, But Pfizer-BioNTech's shot is targeted for people 12 and up. This means that tweens and teens will be eligible for the updated booster.

In a statement, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says, "the updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant." She goes on to say, "if you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”

With this news, parents understandably have lots of questions. School’s starting soon, or has recently started, and parents want to know about how to time their kids’ booster.

What to Know About the Omicron-Specific Boosters

Pfizer’s booster for kids 12 and up is a bivalent vaccine that combines the BA.4/BA.5 variants with the original vaccine formula. The dose is the same for this booster as it was for other Pfizer boosters: a 30-µg dose. As such, experts expect any potential side effects of this vaccine will be similar to the original.

“The expected side effect profile would be very similar to the original vaccine because the mRNA vaccine technology is the same for both,” explains Kari Simonsen, M.D., MBA, senior vice president, pediatrician-in-chief, and chair of pediatrics at  Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Pfizer’s vaccine for kids age 12 and up will roll out in the days and weeks after Labor Day 2022, just in time for many children to head back to school.

What Are the Benefits of the New Booster for Kids?

Experts agree this new bivalent vaccine will have many benefits for kids who are eligible to receive it. First of all, vaccines and boosters generally protect kids from the most serious effects of a COVID-19 infection.

“The vaccines reduce the risk of death and serious illness from COVID-19,” says Ali Alhassani, MD, MSc, head of clinical at Summer Health. “While it is true that death due to COVID-19 is extremely rare in children, the risk is not zero.”

Additionally, Dr. Alhassani says COVID vaccines and boosters have shown protection against serious COVID complications such as MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children). Vaccines also make kids less likely to contract COVID and spread the infection to vulnerable people, he adds.

The fact that these new boosters are updated with the currently circulated variants means they will likely have broader protection than the boosters based on the original formula, says Dr. Alhassani.

“These new boosters are targeted for the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 variant, the dominant strains in the U.S.,” he explains. “That fact suggests that they would offer broader protection than the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that targeted the initial COVID-19 strain alone.”

If Your Kid Is Due for a Booster, Should You Wait for The Omicron Booster?

If you have a tween or teen who is due for their booster, you might be wondering if you should boost them now, with the original booster that’s currently available, or if you should wait for the updated booster. You may feel particular urgency for them to be boosted ASAP, with school starting and high risk activities such as sports and social activities coming up.

Zachary Hoy, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Pediatrix Nashville Pediatric Infectious Disease, says in most cases, it would make sense to wait for the updated vaccine to come out. “This specific booster could have improved benefits, so likely waiting would be ideal,” he says. Dr. Hoy encourages parents to discuss the pros and cons with their pediatrician.

“If a child has some type of immune compromising condition, waiting may not be appropriate,” he says. “If a child is otherwise healthy, waiting for this specific booster may be beneficial because it could potentially cover more variants.”

When Will an Updated Booster Be Available for Kids Under 12?

It is not immediately clear as to when an updated booster will be available for the under 12 crowd. There are some indicators a booster for younger kids will follow the authorization of the vaccines for kids and adults 12 and up.

“There has not been any public information on the precise timeline for this, but Pfizer said on Tuesday [August 23rd] they are working with the FDA to prepare an EUA application for kids 6 months to 11 years,” says Dr. Alhassani.

Additionally, in a fall booster planning guide, the CDC noted that they expected a bivalent booster for kids aged 6 months through 11 years to be available “within a short time” after the booster for kids aged 12 and up. In fact, the CDC indicated that its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices discussed the data during its September 1, 2022 meeting. The CDC says once the FDA authorizes the boosters for those under 12, it will move quickly to make them available,

Should You Boost Your Kid Now?

Given that updated boosters for kids under 12 won’t be available for a little while longer, you might be wondering if you should boost your younger child with the current available booster. Currently, a Pfizer booster containing the original vaccine formula is available for kids aged 5 to 11, about five months after completing their primary Pfizer vaccine series.

Behnoosh Afghani, MD, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at UCI Health, doesn’t think parents in this situation should wait on boosting their kids. “The availability of the new bivalent vaccine may take a few weeks to a few months,” she says, noting that booster doses of COVID vaccines have shown to decrease disease severity in kids.  “Because of the high prevalence of circulating COVID-19, it is important for the kids who qualify for the booster dose to get it as soon as possible and not wait for the new bivalent vaccine,” Dr. Afghani adds.

Not all experts agree, though. “Unless there is an immune compromising condition or your child is on medication that decreases the effectiveness of the immune system, I would recommend waiting until this specific booster is available,” says Dr. Hoy. Whatever the case, it makes sense to discuss this decision with your child's pediatrician, especially if they have any underlying medical conditions.

What If Your Child Got the Moderna Vaccine?

The Moderna vaccine is currently available for kids aged 6 months through 4 years, as well as kids aged 5-17 years old. If your tween or teen got the Moderna vaccine for their primary series, a Moderna booster is not recommended at this time. But you may be wondering if they will be eligible for the Pfizer bivalent booster for kids 12 and up when it becomes available.

Dr. Hoy says it’s likely if you have a kid aged 12 and up who got Moderna, they’d be eligible for the Pfizer updated booster. “If your child fits this category, I would encourage parents to send a message to their pediatrician or make a specific vaccine appointment to discuss if the Pfizer booster after Moderna vaccination is appropriate,” he says.

What This Means For You

Navigating the world of COVID booster shots as a parent can be confusing—especially as different kids got different vaccines and at different points in time! The main idea here is that completing your child’s primary series is vital, and boosting them also has important health benefits. If you are still unsure about how to time your booster, and whether waiting for the bivalent booster is right for your child, please reach out to your child's pediatrician, who can give you advice based on your particular situation.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Recommends the First Updated COVID-19 Booster

  2. Pfizer Inc. Pfizer and BioNTech submit application to U.S. FDA for emergency use authorization of Omicron BA.4/BA.5-adapted bivalent COVID-19 vaccine.

  3. Moderna, Inc. Moderna completes application to U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of Omicron-targeting bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine, Mrna-1273.222.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens.

  5. Zambrano LD, Newhams MM, Olson SM, et al. Effectiveness of BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) mRNA vaccination against multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children among persons aged 12–18 years — United States, July–December 2021. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2022;71:52–58. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7102e1

  6. Pfizer Inc. Pfizer and BioNTech announce updated COVID-19 vaccine data supporting efficacy in children 6 months through 4 years of age.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC fall vaccination operational planning guide.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC strengthens recommendations and expands eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.