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FDA expands Pfizer boosters for more teens as Omicron surges

Lucas Kittikamron-Mora, 13, holds a sign in support of COVID-19 vaccinations as he receives his first Pfizer vaccination at the Cook County Public Health Department, May 13, 2021 in Des Plaines, Ill. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar, file)
Lucas Kittikamron-Mora, 13, holds a sign in support of COVID-19 vaccinations as he receives his first Pfizer vaccination at the Cook County Public Health Department, May 13, 2021 in Des Plaines, Ill. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar, file)

The US is expanding COVID-19 boosters as it confronts the Omicron surge, with the Food and Drug Administration allowing extra Pfizer shots for children as young as 12.

Boosters already are recommended for everyone 16 and older, and federal regulators have decided they’re also warranted for 12- to 15-year-olds once enough time has passed since their last dose.

But the move, coming as classes restart after the holidays, isn’t the final step. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must decide whether to recommend boosters for the younger teens. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, is expected to rule later this week.

The FDA also says everyone 12 and older who’s eligible for a Pfizer booster can get one as early as five months after their last dose rather than six months.

FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks says in a statement the agency made its decision because a booster “may help provide better protection against both the Delta and Omicron variants,” especially as Omicron is “slightly more resistant” to the vaccine-induced antibodies that help fend off infection.

Real-world data from Israel racked more than 6,300 12- to 15-year-olds who got a booster there at least five months after their second Pfizer dose and found no serious safety concerns, the FDA says.

Likewise, the FDA said even more data from Israel showed no problems with giving anyone eligible for a Pfizer booster that extra dose a month sooner than the six months that until now has been US policy.

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