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CDC recommends Pfizer COVID booster for kids as young as 12

A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, on Dec. 2, 2021, at a mobile vaccination clinic in Worcester, Mass.
Steven Senne
A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, on Dec. 2, 2021, at a mobile vaccination clinic in Worcester, Mass.

Updated January 5, 2022 at 9:04 PM ET

Adolescents age 12-17 should receive a a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot five months after their initial series of immunizations, the CDC announced Wednesday.

"It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. "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."

The announcement came hours after a panel of CDC advisers voted 13-1 in favor of the recommendation. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for teens.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration also authorized the use of a Pfizer-BioNTech booster in adolescents, while also shortening the time between the completion of primary vaccination of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and a booster dose from six months to five.

"Throughout the pandemic, as the virus that causes COVID-19 has continuously evolved, the need for the FDA to quickly adapt has meant using the best available science to make informed decisions with the health and safety of the American public in mind," acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., said in a statement on the agency's change.

In a statement Tuesday, the CDC's Walensky urged eligible Americans to get a COVID booster as quickly as possible.

"As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to update our recommendations to ensure the best possible protection for the American people," Walensky said.

"Today's recommendations ensure people are able to get a boost of protection in the face of omicron and increasing cases across the country, and ensure that the most vulnerable children can get an additional dose to optimize protection against COVID-19," she continued.

The recommendations for booster shots for those who initially received vaccines made by Moderna or Johnson & Johnson have not changed.

Those who received a Moderna vaccine should seek their booster after six months, while those who received Johnson & Johnson should get one after two months.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.