As it faces the omicron wave, the U.S. expands COVID-19 boosters. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, allows additional Pfizer shots to children under 12.
Boosters already are recommended for everyone 16 and older, and federal regulators on Monday decided they’re also warranted for 12- to 15-year-olds once enough time has passed since their last dose.
But the move, coming as classes restart after the holidays, isn’t the final step. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must make a decision about whether boosters should be recommended for younger teenagers. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, is expected to rule later this week.
FDA stated that anyone over 12 can apply for boosters up to 5 months following their last dose.
Immunizations are still strong in protecting against severe illness caused by COVID-19. But health authorities are urging everyone who’s eligible to get a booster dose for their best chance at avoiding milder breakthrough infections from the highly contagious omicron mutant.
COVID-19 tends to affect children less than adult patients. But child hospitalizations are rising during the omicron wave—most of them unvaccinated.
Pfizer’s vaccine and BioNTech’s partner are the best options for American children at any age. About 13.5 million 12- to 17-year-olds—just over half that age group—have received two Pfizer shots, according to the CDC.
The booster age limit is a question mark for families who want to protect their children.
Early December saw the eligibility of older teens (16- and-17-year-olds) for boosters. Original vaccinations were opened to the 12-15-year-olds in May. The result is that millions are still waiting for their first dose of vaccines in the spring.
As for even younger children, kid-size doses for 5- to 11-year-olds rolled out more recently, in November—and experts say healthy youngsters should be protected after their second dose for a while. The FDA said Monday that children younger than 12 years old with severely compromised immune systems will be permitted to take a second dose up until 28 days following their first. That’s the same third-dose timing already recommended for immune-compromised teens and adults.
Pfizer will study its vaccine in smaller doses for children under 5.