(NEW YORK) -- New boosters for 5- to 11-year-olds are just weeks away from authorization, the vaccine chief at the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Peter Marks, said Tuesday.
While primary vaccines are already authorized for children 6 months and older, the FDA has yet to authorize the newly updated booster shots -- designed specifically to combat currently circulating omicron subvariants -- for the youngest Americans.
Those boosters, which were authorized at the beginning of the month for everyone 12 and older, will next be authorized for children in the elementary school age range, and then later be authorized for kids under 5.
"I'm confident that we're only a matter of weeks away" from authorizing the 5-11 age range, Marks said during an event with the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project. Marks said that the youngest age group, kids under 5, was still "a few months away" from authorization.
"Tailoring a vaccine against the most widely circulating variant is a similar approach used against the influenza virus, and I would not be surprised if this is an approach we see, seasonally, with COVID-19," said Dr. Alok Patel, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health and an ABC News medical contributor.
But kids under 5 were just recently authorized for primary vaccines, Marks said, so many are still in the process of getting their first doses and not yet in need of boosters.
Fewer than 40% of 5- to 11-year-olds and 10% of younger children 6 months to 4 years old have started their primary COVID-19 vaccination series, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Marks urged parents to generally get their kids vaccinated because the updated boosters cannot be given to people who haven't yet received a primary series.
"There are a lot of kids ages 5 to 11 out there who haven't had their primary series, so you can't get the updated booster until you've had the primary series. So it's a good idea to think about getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19," Marks said.
"It's critical parents not only get their children vaccinated but stay up to date about news on upcoming boosters," Patel said. "While data and information becomes available regarding the omicron-specific booster for kids, I would encourage parents to make sure their kids have completed their primary vaccine series to prevent any delays."
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