FDA Expands Covid Boosters to 12-15 Year Olds

FDA Expands Covid Boosters to 12-15 Year Olds


Update: The CDC has expanded booster shot eligibility to 12-15 year olds, so all Americans with 12-15 year olds can make booster shot appointments for them.

The FDA Has Expanded COVID-19 Booster Eligibility to 12-15 Year Olds, and shortened the minimum time from the second dose to the booster shot to 5 months. Previously only teens 16 years and older were eligible to receive a covid booster shot, which was to be given no sooner than 6 months following the second dose. The booster vaccine dose, as with the original shots, is Pfizer, which is the only vaccine approved for those under 18 years of age.

This is good news for families, including ours, with kids who completed their original vaccine series over 6 months ago, making them more susceptible to infection by the current Omicron wave in the face of waning antibody protection. As kids go back to school, the infectiousness of Omicron, which has been assessed as 2.7-4 times as infectious as the Delta variant, is bound to result in more COVID-19 cases among kids, particularly those who are unvaccinated or vaccinated many months ago.

Fortunately, kids and adults protected by two Pfizer vaccine shots are likely to avoid serious disease thanks to T cells primed by vaccination to kill infected cells. In a recent study by the University of Cape Town in South Africa, 70-80 percent of the T cell responses held up even with the Omicron variant.

The FDA's expansion of booster eligibility to 12-15 year olds means that about 5 million U.S. kids, who were fully vaccinated 5 months or more ago, are about to be eligible for booster shots, as soon as the CDC Director confirms the expanded booster eligibility. Currently, 8.7 million 12-15 year olds (just over half of the 17 million eligible) have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

In making its recommendation, the FDA cited its review of data from Israel, where 6300 kids ages 12-15 have received a Pfizer booster dose at least 5 months after their completion of the initial two-dose series. Israel's data found no new safety concerns: there were no new cases of myocarditis or pericarditis reported. Israel authorized booster doses for 12-15 year olds in late November 2021.

In addition to authorizing booster doses for 12-15 year olds 5+ months after their second Pfizer dose, the FDA has authorized a third Pfizer dose for immunocompromised kids 5-11, including those who have received an organ transplant.

At time of writing, about 69 million Americans have been fully vaccinated and received a COVID-19 booster shot, which works out to 21 percent of the population. 62 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. Over the last month, the 7-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has increased nearly 3.5 times, to over 400,000 average new daily cases, while hospitalizations have increased 1.6 times, to over 87,000.

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