Jan 3, 2022 - Health

FDA authorizes Pfizer boosters for 12- to 15-year-olds

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a child at an Oklahoma County Health Department Vaccine Clinic.

A health care worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a child at an Oklahoma County Health Department Vaccine Clinic on Nov. 17, 2021. Photo: Nick Oxford/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration expanded COVID-19 vaccine booster eligibility on Monday to allow 12- to 15-year-olds to receive a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Why it matters: The expansion comes as coronavirus cases soar to record numbers due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, raising concerns over hospitals' ability to respond to the anticipated deluge of patients.

Driving the news: The FDA also approved shortening the period people must wait between receiving a second shot and booster from six months to five months.

  • It also authorized booster shots for certain children aged 5–11 with immune deficiencies.

The big picture: More than 70% of people in the U.S. above the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

  • NIAID director Anthony Fauci last week encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent "avoidable" hospitalization and severe illness.

What they're saying: "Throughout the pandemic, as the virus that causes COVID-19 has continuously evolved, the need for the FDA to quickly adapt has meant using the best available science to make informed decisions with the health and safety of the American public in mind," acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement Monday.

  • “With the current wave of the Omicron variant, it’s critical that we continue to take effective, life-saving preventative measures such as primary vaccination and boosters, mask wearing and social distancing to in order to effectively fight COVID-19."

What to watch: The CDC's vaccine advisory committee is expected to meet this week to decide whether to endorse the FDA changes, according to the New York Times, which first reported on the expansion.

Go deeper: Fauci says child COVID hospitalizations "avoidable" with vaccine

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