Pfizer asked U.S. regulators Tuesday to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to get booster doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. and many other nations already were urging adults to get boosters to pump up immunity that can wane about six months after vaccination — calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant.
While health authorities don’t yet know just how big a risk omicron poses, President Joe Biden has said it’s inevitable that the mutant will reach the U.S. and that boosters — plus first shots for the unvaccinated — are key to strengthening protection.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla announced the new booster request via tweet Tuesday, saying, “It is our hope to provide strong protection for as many people as possible, particularly in light of the new variant.”
The FDA is expected to consider the request rapidly.
Boosters for all adults were authorized on Nov. 19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday went a step further and recommended all adults get them. It was previously recommended for those 50 years and older or if they live in a long-term care setting.
CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the new guidance for adults reflects the emergence of the omicron variant, which has not yet been identified in the U.S. but that officials say will inevitably reach the country.
“Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine,” she said in a statement.
Walensky also encouraged Americans feeling unwell to seek out a COVID-19 test, saying “Increased testing will help us identify Omicron quickly.”
The omicron variant was first identified days ago by researchers in South Africa. The World Health Organization warned Monday that the global risk is “very high” based on the early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”
South African doctors say that the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed omicron is resulting in mostly mild symptoms.
Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province where 81% of the new cases have been reported, says he has seen a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases in the past 10 days.
He said that so far the cases have been very mild cases, with patients having flu-like symptoms, dry coughs, fever, night sweats, a lot of body pains. He said most have been treated at home. He also said that the vaccinated are faring much better than the unvaccinated.