CDC expands guidance on COVID-19 boosters to adolescents 12 to 15

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shots to adolescents 12 to 15 years old. That means it's now recommended that everyone from age 12 on up should receive a booster shot five months after their second dose of the vaccination.

This recommendation is particularly timely, given the rapid increase in reported COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations following the Thanksgiving holiday, said Dr. Michael Kelleher, chief medical officer for Amita Health Mercy Medical Center Aurora.

"The booster shots have proven to be critical in fighting this pandemic," Kelleher said. "With cases still climbing, most likely fueled by the omicron variant, and many students expected to return to the classroom following winter break, we need to take every possible measure to protect our families."

Kelleher said the boosters were previously recommended for adults 16 years and older.

According to the CDC release announcing the new recommendation, the guidance comes as a result of data seen in studies that the boosters broaden and strengthen protection against COVID-19, including omicron and other variants.

"The experts have reviewed all the available safety data, which includes that captured following the administration of more than 25 million vaccine doses in adolescents," Kelleher said. "They've determined the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for this age group."

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only one authorized and recommended for adolescents age 12 to 17. However, the Moderna vaccine is under investigation for booster expansion and a determination is expected soon.

"It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, in the announcement of the expansion. "This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the omicron variant. I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC's COVID-19 vaccine recommendations."

Kelleher agrees, saying COVID-19 infection is threatening to overwhelm hospitals locally and nationally.

"Vaccination and boosters are an important tool for keeping our children as safe as possible," he said. "They've been shown to significantly reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalization in those of all ages. We highly recommend everyone receive vaccination and boosters who is medically able to help stop the spread of this illness."

• Children's health is a continuing series.

Dr. Michael Kelleher
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