The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine boosters for teens 16 and 17.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must also approve those booster shots for the older teens before shots can begin.
Those extra third shots could be critical in helping prevent the spread of the COVID variant omicron, which is surging in South Africa, where it was first detected, and sending a large number of children under 5 to hospitals
Pfizer on Wednesday announced the drugmaker’s two-dose vaccine was significantly less effective against omicron, but that the third booster shot was more effective, according to Axios. The two doses of Pfizer vaccine still offers protection against severe disease caused by omicron, Pfizer’s CEO said of lab results.
“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 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,” Woodcock continued.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement that 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.
“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,” Marks said. “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.”
Younger Alabamians continue to be vaccinated against COVID -19 in lesser percentages than adults. Alabama has the third-lowest percentage of fully vaccinated residents in the nation, at 46.6 percent, according to the CDC, behind only Idaho and Wyoming, states with less population density than Alabama.
The percentage of Alabamians aged 12 to 17 who are vaccinated against COVID is 34.5 percent. The percentage increases slightly to 42.1 percent among those 18 to 24, and 51 percent in 25-to-49-year olds, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.