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December 09, 2021

Pfizer's COVID-19 booster shots authorized for teens ages 16-17

Preliminary research suggests a third dose is necessary to maintain protection against the omicron variant

Prevention COVID-19
COVID-19 boosters teens Rion Sanders/Great Falls Tribune/USA Today Network

Preliminary studies have shown that three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine are necessary to maintain protection against the omicron variant.

Teenagers ages 16 and 17 who completed Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine regimen at least six months ago are now eligible to receiver a booster shot. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the boosters Thursday, noting new evidence indicates vaccine effectiveness is waning.

"A single booster dose of the vaccine for those vaccinated at least six months prior will help provide continued protection against COVID-19 in this and older age groups," said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. 

Though adults are able to receive boosters from any vaccine manufacturers, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available to teenagers. 

The FDA's decision to expand booster eligibility potentially paves the way for younger adolescents and children to eventually receive third shots.

preliminary study found a Pfizer-BioNTech booster offers the same protection against the omicron variant as the two-dose regimen did against the original coronavirus and previous variants. The two-dose regimen may still protect against severe illness, but it may leave people more vulnerable to infection.

"Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the omicron strain, it's clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine," Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said. "Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

Pfizer-BioNTech expects to have an omicron-specific vaccine ready by March, if necessary.

Last month, federal health regulators made all adults eligible for booster shots dependent on the timing of their initial regimen. 

Philadelphia residents can find information about vaccine booster availability, including specific clinics, on the city's COVID-19 website


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