Dec 9, 2021 - Health

FDA authorizes Pfizer COVID booster shots for 16- and 17-year-olds

 Pharmacy technicians prepare doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a mass COVID-19 vaccination event on January 30, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.

Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday expanded its emergency use authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to include those aged 16 and 17.

Why it matters: The move could expand access to the boosters at a time when there's increasing concern about the Omicron variant.

  • Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing Omicron in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

The big picture: The FDA last month endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for adults.

  • "The booster dose is to be administered at least six months after completion of the primary series and is the same formulation and dosage strength as the doses in the primary series," Pfizer and BioNTech said in a statement.
  • "The booster vaccination increases the level of immunity and dramatically improves protection against COVID-19 in all age groups studied so far," BioNTech CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin added.

What they're saying: “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,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

  • “As people gather indoors with family and friends for the holidays, we can’t let up on all the preventive public health measures that we have been taking during the pandemic. With both the delta and omicron variants continuing to spread, vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19.” 

What's next: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must still sign off on boosters for 16- and 17-year-olds before the shots are available to the age group.

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