US authorises Covid boosters for teens amid Omicron fears

Washington: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended individuals 16 and 17 years of age get a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at least six months after completing their first two doses.

The CDC recommendation came hours after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech third shot to this age group, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Although we don’t have all the answers on the Omicron variant, initial data suggests that Covid-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen the protection against Omicron and other variants,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a statement.

“We know that Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and I strongly encourage adolescents ages 16 and 17 to get their booster if they are at least 6 months post their initial Pfizer vaccination series,” Walensky said.

On November 19, the FDA authorized the use of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for all individuals 18 years of age and older after completion of primary vaccination with any FDA-authorized or approved Covid-19 vaccine. The new move on Thursday has expanded the age group eligible for the booster dose.

Currently, only the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is authorised and recommended for adolescents aged 16 and 17.

Some experts and parents were concerned about myocarditis, a rare inflammatory heart condition, caused by the vaccines for younger kids.

The FDA said Thursday it has determined that the benefits of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outweigh the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis in individuals 16 and 17 years of age to provide continued protection against Covid-19 and the associated serious consequences that can occur including hospitalisation and death.

“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,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock in a statement.

With both the Delta and Omicron variants continuing to spread, vaccination remains the best protection against Covid-19, Woodcock said.

The CDC’s recommendation and the FDA’s emergency authorization came a day after Pfizer and BioNTech released initial lab data indicating that booster shots provide high levels of protection against the highly mutated Omicron variant.

Omicron infection cases have been found in at least 22 US states as of Thursday, CDC data show.


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