The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters, ruling that 16- and 17-year-olds can get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.
The U.S. and many other nations already were urging adults to get booster shots to pump up immunity that can wane months after vaccination, calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech — if it’s been six months since their last shot.
“Vaccination and getting a booster when eligible, along with other preventive measures like masking and avoiding large crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, remain our most effective methods for fighting COVID-19,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, said in a statement.
There’s one more step: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must formally recommend the boosters for this age group and a decision is expected soon.
“The booster vaccination increases the level of immunity and dramatically improves protection against COVID-19 in all age groups studied so far,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement.
The Pfizer vaccine is the only option in the U.S. for anyone younger than 18, either for initial vaccination or for use as a booster. It’s not yet clear if or when teens younger than 16 might need a third Pfizer dose.
Vaccinations for children as young as 5 just began last month, using special low-dose Pfizer shots. By this week, about 5 million 5- to 11-year-olds had gotten a first dose.