The Columbus Dispatch

FDA expands Pfizer booster shots to age 16

- Lauran Neergaard and Matthew Perrone

The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters, ruling that 16- and 17-yearolds can get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.

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 intensified 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 Pfizer and its partner Biontech – if it’s been six months since their last shot.

There’s one more step: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must formally recommend the boosters for this age group and a decision is expected soon.

The Pfizer 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 Pfizer dose.

Vaccinatio­ns for children as young as 5 just began last month, using special low-dose Pfizer shots. By this week, about 5 million 5- to 11-year-olds had gotten a first dose.

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 different omicron mutant. But there’s strong evidence that boosters offer a jump in protection against deltacause­d infections, currently the biggest threat.

Complicati­ng the decision to extend boosters to 16- and 17-year-olds is that the Pfizer shot – and a similar vaccine made by Moderna – have been linked to a rare side effect. Called myocarditi­s, it’s a type of heart inflammation seen mostly in younger men and teen boys.

A U.S. study this week offered additional reassuranc­e. Researcher­s from children’s hospitals around the country checked medical records and found the rare side effect usually is mild and people recover quickly, while COVID-19 itself can cause more serious heart inflammation. The research was published Monday.

 ?? AP FILE ?? 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 Pfizer and its partner Biontech – if it’s been six months since their last shot.
AP FILE 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 Pfizer and its partner Biontech – if it’s been six months since their last shot.

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