FDA expands Pfizer Covid booster, allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to get added protection

FDA expands Pfizer boosters for Americans as young as 16 (Pictures: Getty Images/AP)

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for Americans as young as 16, at least six months after their initial doses.

‘Since we first authorized the vaccine, new evidence indicates that vaccine effectiveness against Covid-19 is waning after the second dose of the vaccine for all adults and for those in the 16- and 17-year-old age group,’ said Dr Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccines official.

‘A single booster dose of the vaccine for those vaccinated at least six months prior will help provide continued protection against Covid-19 in this and older age groups,’ Marks added.

Calls from the Biden Administration to Americans to receive their booster shots have amplified in recent weeks, as concerns of the worrisome new omicron variant grow.

Like previous changes to recommendations from the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also need to weigh in and formally recommend boosters for this age group before they can actually receive the third jab.

Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla called the decision ‘a critical milestone’ in a statement.

On Wednesday, the company shared data that proves its booster would increase available antibodies fighting omicron by 25%.

‘Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,’ Bourla said.

Roughly 2.6 million Americans aged 16 and 17 years old, or 31%, were fully vaccinated six months ago and will be immediately eligible for another dose, according to the CDC’s data.

Today, a little more than half of teens in this age group are fully vaccinated.

The Pfizer vaccine in the only option for Americans younger than 18, for both the initial doses and boosters.

Vaccinations for children as young as 5 began last month with low-dose Pfizer shots. By this week, about 5 million 5- to 11-year-olds had gotten their first dose.

According to the FDA, rising COVID-19 cases in the US mean the benefits of boosters greatly outweighed the potential risk from the rare side effect, especially as the coronavirus itself can cause more serious heart inflammation.

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