FDA Authorizes COVID Vaccine Booster Shots for Kids Aged 12 to 15 as Pediatric Cases Soar

The CDC is expected to give the final approval on Wednesday

teen vaccine
A child getting vaccinated. Photo: Getty

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for kids aged 12 to 15 years old, they announced Monday, as pediatric cases soar and children head back to school after the holidays.

Kids in that age group who received their second dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago (a shorter time span than the six months the FDA previously recommended for those 16 and up) would be eligible to receive a booster.

The FDA also approved booster shots for kids aged 5 to 11 who are immunocompromised.

The decisions still need to be cleared by the Centers for Disease Control. An outside panel of vaccine experts are set to meet Wednesday to discuss the booster shot changes and are expected to agree with the FDA's plan. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will likely then sign off on the panel's suggestions by the end of the day.

The updated booster shot recommendations come as the highly-contagious omicron variant rockets through the U.S., causing a rapid rise in cases, particularly among kids. In the week ending on Dec. 23, nearly 199,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported nationwide, an increase of 50% since the start of the month, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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U.S. children are also being hospitalized for COVID-19 in record numbers. Between Dec. 22 and 28, an average of 378 kids a day were admitted to hospitals, an increase of 66% compared to the week before, the CDC said. Doctors are reporting, though, that all of the kids they're seeing at hospitals are unvaccinated. Dr. Albert Ko from the Yale School of Public Health told ABC News that none of the kids at his hospital were vaccinated.

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Around 20% of kids aged 5 to 11 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine since they were approved in early November, according to the CDC.

On Thursday, the CDC released three studies confirming that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine — the only one currently approved for use in the age group — is entirely safe for kids aged 5 to 11, and "serious adverse effects" like myocarditis, a form of heart inflammation, "were rarely reported."

One of the studies also found that Pfizer's vaccine was 92% effective in preventing COVID-19 illness in those 12 to 17 years old, and a third study reported that nearly all children ages 5 to 17 hospitalized with COVID-19 in July and August 2021 — more than 99% — were unvaccinated.

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