The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have issued an emergency-use authorization Monday approving COVID-19 vaccine boosters for teenagers 12 to 15, bringing millions of young Americans one step closer to their third shot.
The agency’s decision to extend boosters into this age group was based primarily on data from Israel showing there were no new health concerns among a group of over 6,000 12- to 15-year-olds who received a booster five months after their initial round of vaccinations was completed; 16- and 17-year-olds have been eligible for a third shot since early December. Both groups are eligible to receive only the Pfizer vaccine. The green-light Monday also allows all Americans over the age of 16 to get a booster just five months after their second shot as opposed to six months.
“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,” acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement announcing the change, which comes while students return to classrooms as a more transmissive strain tears through the nation. While vaccinated Americans have been susceptible to Omicron, studies suggest boosters still provide significant protection against hospitalization.
With the FDA’s approval secure, an advisory committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the emergency-use authorization on Wednesday, voting 13 to one in in its favor. The agency also approved the decision to shorten the time between the initial round of shots and the booster to five months. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to give the final approval for the authorization this week, at which point as many as 5 million young teenagers can get their third shots.