Updated May 19, 2022 - Health

CDC director authorizes Pfizer COVID booster for children 5-11

L.A. Care Health Plan vaccination clinic.

A nurse administers a pediatric dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to a girl at a L.A. Care Health Plan vaccination clinic at Los Angeles Mission College on Jan. 19, 2022. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11, according to a CDC statement on Thursday.

Driving the news: Walensky's decision comes days after the FDA expanded authorization for the age group and after the CDC panel also made the same recommendation. Children will now be able to receive the boosters immediately.

What they're saying: "Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness," Walensky said in a statement.

  • "With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected," she said.
  • "With cases increasing, it is important that all people have the protection they need, which is why, today, CDC has also strengthened another booster recommendation. Those 50 and older and those who are 12 and older and immunocompromised should get a second booster dose," she added.

State of play: Children aged 5-11 can get their first booster shot five months "at least five months after completion of a primary series with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine," the FDA said earlier in the week.

  • The booster shot is 10 micrograms, which is the same dosage this age group received in their primary series and a third of that given to people aged 12 and older.
  • "While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer term effects, even following initially mild disease," FDA commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement.

Go deeper: Which age groups are eligible for the different COVID vaccines

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

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