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Associated Press

US Expands Pfizer COVID Boosters, Opens Extra Dose To Age 16

12-10-2021
Ariel Quero, 16, left, a student at Lehman High School, reacts after getting the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Katrina Taormina, right, July 27, 2021, in New York.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)
Ariel Quero, 16, left, a student at Lehman High School, reacts after getting the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Katrina Taormina, right, July 27, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)

U.S. health authorities again expanded the nation's booster campaign Thursday, opening extra doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to several million 16- and 17-year-olds.

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.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech — once they're six months past their last dose. And hours later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the last barrier as Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency's director, issued a statement strongly encouraging those teens to get their booster as soon as it's time.

Boosters are important considering that protection against infection wanes over time and “we’re facing a variant that has the potential to require more immunity to be protected," Walensky told The Associated Press.

About 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, including about 4.7 million 16- and 17-year-olds, many of whom got their first shots in the spring and would be eligible for a booster.

“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,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, said in a statement.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only option in the U.S. for anyone younger than 18, either for initial vaccination or for use as a booster. It’s not yet clear if or when teens younger than 16 might need a third Pfizer dose.

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