The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday signed off on booster shots of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds who are six months past their second shot, clearing the way for vaccinations to start.
The move comes amid a surge in infections nationwide due to the delta variant as well as uncertainty about the newly discovered omicron variant.
"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. 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," CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyGottlieb: US should be 'aggressive' in lifting COVID-19 measures as conditions improve CDC on omicron cases, hospitalizations: 'Milder does not mean mild' WATCH: White House COVID-19 Response Team update MORE said in a statement.
The CDC's announcement came just a few hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Pfizer an expansion of its emergency use authorization, to bolster protection against the delta and emerging omicron variant.
It's not completely clear how well the existing vaccines hold up against omicron, though initial data from Pfizer and a lab in South Africa show that three doses seem to offer a more significant increase in neutralizing antibodies.
“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. With both the delta and omicron variants continuing to spread, vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19," Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.
Pfizer is currently the only vaccine authorized for people under the age of 18. The vaccine has been authorized for children as young as 5, but boosters were only available for adults. Booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are also authorized for adults.
However, many states have decided to open eligibility for boosters to all ages, regardless of FDA action.
Children under age 18 make up 22.2 percent of the U.S. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they comprised 22.4 percent of all reported weekly COVID-19 cases as of Dec. 2.
The FDA said on Thursday that the benefits of a booster for 16- and 17-year-olds outweighed the risks of myocarditis, a rare inflammatory heart condition that has been seen primarily in young men after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine.