COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine iStock

The US on Wednesday authorized updated COVID-19 boosters for children as young as five, seeking to expand protection ahead of an expected winter wave, The Associated Press reported.

Tweaked boosters had already been rolled out for Americans 12 and older last month, and on Wednesday the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave a green light for elementary school-age kids to get the updated booster doses, too -- one made by Pfizer for 5- to 11-year-olds, and a version from rival Moderna for those as young as 6.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends how vaccines are used, also signed off, according to AP.

These combination or “bivalent” boosters are designed to broaden immune defenses so that people are better protected against serious illness whether they encounter an Omicron relative in the coming months, or a different mutant that’s more like the original virus.

“We want to have the best of both worlds,” Pfizer’s Dr. Bill Gruber, a pediatrician, told The Associated Press. He hopes the updated shots will “re-energize interest in protecting children for the winter.”

Only people who have gotten their initial vaccinations -- with any of the original-formula versions -- qualify for an updated booster. That means about three-fourths of Americans 12 and older are eligible.

For the updated booster made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, 5- to 11-year-olds would get a third of the dose that anyone 12 and older already receives. Pfizer said it could ship up to 6 million kid-sized doses within a week of authorization, in addition to ongoing shipments of adult-sized doses.