An advisory panel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday recommended that adolescents aged 12 to 15 years receive a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least 5 months after the primary series.
The Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices also expanded its recent recommendations on older teens to make it clear that teens aged 16 and 17 “should” also receive a booster dose.
Booster shots are seen as a key tool to combat the omicron variant, which has shown an increased ability to infect individuals who have received two shots, although vaccinated people still have important protection against serious illness.
The 13-1 vote comes two days after the Food and Drug Administration approved booster doses for adolescents, and is one of the final steps before pharmacists, doctors and other providers will be able to administer vaccines to children in that age group.
When the CDC announces, boosters will be allowed to be administered. About 5 million children would be eligible for the extra doses immediately, a CDC official told the committee on Wednesday.
Panelists discussed how strongly they should make the recommendation because the panel last month said 16- and 17-year-olds “must” get a booster dose instead of “should”. Adolescents are generally less likely to suffer from serious illness, and although some efficacy against infection decreases, the first vaccines maintain protection against serious illness and hospitalization.
Sarah Long, a professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine, said giving teens a boost is like playing “whack-a-mole” as it is unclear how much benefit the extra dose can provide against infection. . But still, she said it was worth it because of how transmissible the omicron variant is and how many people get infected.
According to the CDC, the majority of young people admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Symptomatic COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are up to 11 times higher in unvaccinated adolescents compared to vaccinated, it states.
Helen Keipp Talbot, the lone panel member who voted against the recommendations, said she is not opposed to giving young people booster shots, but was concerned about the risk of myocarditis, a rare but serious heart attack.
Talbot, a vaccine researcher at Vanderbilt University, said she thinks it is best to focus on getting shots into the unvaccinated.
“I just really want the United States to continue to vaccinate all children so that all children can return to a normal life. And I do not think it is fair that 12- to 17-year-olds who have been vaccinated are at risk myocarditis again to an unknown benefit because their colleagues will not be vaccinated, “Talbot said.
According to the CDC, the risk of myocarditis is small. The agency has confirmed 277 cases of myocarditis in 5- to 15-year-olds who received the Pfizer vaccine out of more than 27 million doses.
Updated at 17.56