CDC, FDA Authorize Pfizer COVID Boosters for 16- and 17-Year-Olds

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have authorized Pfizer's COVID-19 booster shot for 16- and 17-year-olds.

The Pfizer-BioNTech booster is expected to expand usage across the U.S. in the coming days. Those affected by the potential expansion will be able to receive the dose only if it has been six months since their second Pfizer shot.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told the Associated Press it is critical that teens and their parents get booster shots as soon as possible, as "we're facing a variant that has the potential to require more immunity to be protected."

The FDA's acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, also stressed the importance of boosters and vaccination as a whole.

"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," she said in a statement.

The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only one available to children and teens. Vaccinations for 5-year-olds and up began in November. Around 5 million 5- to 11-year-olds will have gotten the first dose by the end of this week.

Despite the large number of shots, many parents are still skeptical about giving their children the COVID-19 vaccines. Newsweek previously reported that over one-quarter of parents in Texas said want to see what happens before making a decision. Over 7 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

A formal decision by the CDC on whether or not to approve Pfizer's booster expansion is expected to be released soon.

Teen Vaccination
The CDC and FDA have officially authorized Pfizer's COVID-19 booster shot for 16- and 17-year-olds. Above, a group of teenagers serving as COVID-19 Student Ambassadors joined Governor Gretchen Whitmer to receive a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Ford Field during an event to promote and encourage Michigan residents to get their vaccines on April 6, 2021, in Detroit. Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

The U.S. and many other nations already were urging adults to get booster shots to pump up immunity that can wane months after vaccination, calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant.

The extra-contagious Delta variant is causing nearly all COVID-19 infections in the U.S., and in much of the world. It's not yet clear how vaccines will hold up against the new and markedly different Omicron mutant. But there's strong evidence that boosters offer a jump in protection against delta-caused infections, currently the biggest threat.

Complicating the decision to extend boosters to 16- and 17-year-olds is that the Pfizer shot—and a similar vaccine made by Moderna—have been linked to a rare side effect. Called myocarditis, it's a type of heart inflammation seen mostly in younger men and teen boys.

Health officials in Israel, which already gives boosters to teens, have said the side effect continues to be rare with third doses.

A U.S. study this week offered additional reassurance. Researchers from children's hospitals around the country checked medical records and found the rare side effect usually is mild and people recover quickly, while COVID-19 itself can cause more serious heart inflammation. The research was published Monday in the journal Circulation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Update 12/9/21, 3:00 p.m. ET: This article was updated to include CDC approval.