CDC Sets Panel Meetings for J&J and Moderna Boosters, Vaccines for Children as Young as 5

October 9, 2021 Updated: October 10, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will hear from its vaccine advisory panel later this month on booster shots for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and also on vaccinating children as young as 5.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet on Oct. 20 and 21, followed by a second two-day meeting starting on Nov. 2. The advisory panel is made up of outside scientists who give recommendations to the CDC pertaining to vaccines.

The first set of meetings will come several days after the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) vaccine advisory panel meets on proposals to allow booster shots of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines.

The same panel is scheduled to convene in late October on the matter of letting children between the ages of 5 and 11 receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine; currently, only children aged 12 or older can. Pfizer recently submitted a request for emergency use authorization for the 5-to-11 age group.

The CDC and FDA typically approve the panel’s recommendations. But the process on booster shots for Pfizer’s vaccine grew tense after top Biden administration officials, in a move critics said undermined the agencies, said in August that everybody who got the vaccine would be told to get a booster in September.

Two top FDA officials resigned over the statement and pronounced that little evidence backed giving boosters, especially to those outside the oldest age groups.

The FDA’s vaccine advisory panel then voted against broad booster authorization, though it recommended authorizing the vaccines for anybody aged 65 and older, as well as several other groups. The FDA agreed with the recommendation and expanded the emergency authorization.

The CDC’s panel voted to recommend boosters for fewer people, but CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky overruled its recommendation.

Some U.S. experts have urged that the vaccine protocols be changed, based on findings that youths have an elevated risk of heart inflammation that’s the highest after the second dose of the two-dose regimens for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. A number of European countries advise a single shot for most youths and some have paused the use of Moderna’s vaccine altogether for young people. But U.S. authorities have shown little inclination to adjust recommendations based on age group outside the boosters, arguing that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.