The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the emergency use of the Pfizer coronavirus booster shot for Americans aged 16 and 17.
The move comes as the Delta variant is fueling surges in infections and hospitalizations in some pockets of the country and the highly contagious Omicron variant starts to spread across 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 Dr. Janet Woodcock said in an agency news release.
Extra protection ahead of the holidays
“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,” Woodcock adds.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said expanding the availability of booster shots makes sense.
“The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been available to individuals 16 years of age and older for nearly a year, and its benefits have been shown to clearly outweigh potential risks,” he noted in the agency news release. “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. 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.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to promptly endorse the FDA’s approval, although no meeting of its vaccine advisory committee has been scheduled at this point, The New York Times reports.
Pfizer first sought the approval for using the boosters in this age group at the end of November, and it becomes the first booster shot approved for Americans this young.