WHO finds ‘no evidence’ that healthy children, adolescents need boosters


WHO recently announced that there is not enough evidence to conclude that healthy children and adolescents require a COVID-19 booster. Instead, the world health agency said that boosters should be reserved for more vulnerable populations.

“The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying; those are our elderly populations, the immunocompromised, people with underlying conditions and also health care workers,” Soumya SwaminathanMBBS, MD, WHO chief scientist, said during a recent press briefing. “So, reserve boosters for that population.”

She added that there is currently “no evidence at all” to support giving boosters to healthy children and adolescents.

WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization will meet later this week to discuss policy recommend.

Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agreed with WHO’s stance on boosters.

“There’s no evidence that children who are fully vaccinated are seeing any erosion in the ability of the vaccines to prevent the outcome that matters, which is serious illness,” he told Healio. “That argument could be extended not just to people under the age of 18, but probably to people under the age of 65 who don’t have any high-risk conditions.”

Meanwhile, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recently recommended that adolescents aged 12 to 17 years receive a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at least 5 months after their primary vaccine series.

The ACIP decided on the recommendation in a 13-1 vote. The sole dissenting vote from Helen “Keipp” Talbot, MD, MPH, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, stemmed primarily from the risk for myocarditis.

“I want children vaccinated, but I don’t think that risking 12- to 17-year-olds to myocarditis again is worth the risk,” Talbot said during the ACIP’s meeting.

According to Adalja, the approach to boosters in the U.S. is “completely contrary to the goals of what we are doing with this virus.” He added that “WHO deserves praise” for its statement on boosters.

“In the U.S., the whole booster campaign has become very political, and it’s become kind of a slogan,” he said. “It’s very hard to have any kind of position contrary to the Biden administration when it comes to boosters. You can actually get labeled anti-vax if you say something because of the way this has become so wrapped into politics.”

Individuals aged older than 65 years, those with high-risk conditions and those who are immunocompromised are the populations that should be boosted, Adalja said. A full vaccine series should be promoted to all other healthy individuals, he added.

References:

WHO press conference on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – 18 January 2022. https://www.who.int/multi-media/details/who-press-conference-on-coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)—18-january-2022. Published Jan. 18, 2022. Accessed Jan. 19, 2022.

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