The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shot for children aged 12 to 17.
“It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”
A CDC advisory panel earlier on Wednesday recommended Pfizer’s booster for those younger children.
“Today, the CDC approved the Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot for kids ages 12-15. Boosters work — and offer the highest level of protection against Omicron. If your child is eligible, get them boosted today,” President Joe Biden said in a tweet Wednesday.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday amended an emergency use authorization to allow Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shots for children ages 12 to 15, as well as lowered the timeline for getting a booster shot from six months after full vaccination status to five months.
In approving booster shots for children aged 12 to 17 the FDA reviewed data from Israel that included a study of more than 6,300 children aged 12 through 15 who received a booster dose at least 5 months following a two-dose vaccination series.
“The data shows there are no new safety concerns following a booster in this population. There were no new cases of myocarditis or pericarditis reported to date in these individuals,” the FDA said Monday.
The FDA noted that Pfizer’s booster shot “greatly improves an individual’s antibody response to be able to counter the omicron variant” and that no new safety concerns came from the administration of booster doses among the more than 4.1 million people 16 and older in Israel, given at least five months after being fully vaccinated.
The push to open boosters for younger children comes amid concerns from Alabama’s health experts that schools reopening after the holidays, and the state’s extremely low rates of vaccination among school-aged children, could result in outbreaks. Alabama is seeing record numbers of new cases, and COVID hospitalizations have doubled each week over the last three weeks.
A month ago Alabama’s seven-day average positivity rate — or the percentage of COVID cases that are positive — was 5.4 percent, and on Wednesday, was a record-high 41 percent.
Alabama’s COVID hospitalizations grew from 305 people hospitalized a month ago to 1,249 on Tuesday, a 309 percent increase.
Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said Tuesday that he’s concerned about the reopening of schools and the possibility of children contracting COVID “and then back-spread potentially to their parents and grandparents.”
“We still strongly support universal masking in all our K through 12 schools,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Tuesday. “We strongly urge parents to have their children vaccinated as soon as they possibly can.”