While coronavirus vaccine boosters have been available for adults, experts have been watching the data to determine whether teens and children will need them as the pandemic continues into another year. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) each authorized COVID-19 booster shots for teenagers aged 16 and 17 for emergency use, per a statement from the FDA.
The CDC sign-off came later Thursday following the FDA announcement (meaning that teens in this age group can immediately make their appointments), with officials stating that expanding access the booster represented yet another way to keep communities safer as we head into the holidays and see more indoor gatherings and as we continue to understand the newer Omicron variant that is showing up in the United States.
“Vaccination and getting a booster when eligible, along with other preventive measures like masking and avoiding large crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, remain our most effective methods for fighting COVID-19,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. said in a statement. “As people gather indoors with family and friends for the holidays, we can’t let up on all the preventive public health measures that we have been taking during the pandemic. With both the delta and omicron variants continuing to spread, vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19.”
As SheKnows previously reported, access to boosters is granted after an individual has completed their full course of a vaccine (in the case of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines that is following two doses) to “ensure adequate immunity” for people exposed to the virus.
“Since we do not know the exact duration of efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine, the booster will help protect those who are at increased risk and were initially vaccinated over six months ago,” as Dr. Erica Wigdor, an internal medicine physician, told SheKnows.
As the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been available to people 16 and older for nearly a year, officials state that the data around vaccine effectiveness led them to believe the benefits of the boosters outweigh any of the potential risks. Per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under 18 represent 22.4 percent of COVID cases reported in the United States in the last week of November, first week of December.
“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,” as Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said in a statement. “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.”
As experts are still understanding how long the vaccines offer protection in different age groups, it still remains to be seen whether boosters will be considered for younger teens, tweens and kids.
Before you go, check out our favorite all-natural cold and flu products for kids: