CDC Recommends All 16- and 17-year-olds Get COVID-19 Booster Shots

CDC Recommends All 16- and 17-year-olds Get COVID-19 Booster Shots
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is seen in Washington in a file photograph. (Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday recommended every 16- and 17-year-old in the United States get a COVID-19 booster shot, provided their last vaccination was done at least six months ago.

"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," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency's director, said in a statement.

Omicron is a variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19. Emerging data indicates it causes less severe disease than other variants, but that it evades protection from both vaccination and prior infection better than earlier strains.

The CDC's recommendation is for Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 jab. No other vaccines are available for people under 18 in the United States.

It came just hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a Pfizer booster for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Both agencies made their decisions without consulting their advisory committees.

The clearance was immediately questioned by some experts, including Dr. Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who sits on the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.

"There has to be clear evidence of a benefit for this booster dose in children before we launch a major campaign to boost that group. Because right now all the evidence is that two doses protects them against serious illness," Offit told The Epoch Times.

The FDA has not released the data supporting its decision and has not responded to a request for comment for the data.

"The FDA will be publicly posting documents regarding the agency’s decision on its website following authorization," the agency said in a press release.

Most concerning for many doctors is that 16- and 17-year-olds are at elevated risk of heart inflammation after getting Pfizer's shot. The age group is also at low risk of contracting serious cases of COVID-19, even without getting a vaccine.

One U.S. study showed heart inflammation incidence was around one in 5,000 for the age group, while an Israeli study pointed to one in 7,500.

Heart inflammation also happens to some people who contract COVID-19.

Approximately 15.5 million Americans between 12 and 18 have been fully vaccinated, or gotten a two-dose regimen of Pfizer's shot, as of Dec. 9, according to federal data.

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