With coronavirus infections skyrocketing and schools at risk of shutting down, a panel of advisers on Wednesday urged the CDC to fight back by recommending 10 million young people receive the protection of a vaccine booster shot. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky agreed, the Washington Post reports. The change will allow health officials to give a clear, unconditional message to parents that their children, as long as they're at least 12 years old and at least five months past their second vaccine dose, should receive a Pfizer booster.
"It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease," Walensky said in a statement Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already had made 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for boosters, but the panel wanted them included in the recommendation—saying they should receive a booster, not just that they can. The panel's vote was 13-1, with the holdout arguing that it's more important to emphasize getting unvaccinated children their first shots than ensuring those who have had two doses add the booster. CDC data show that more than half of 12- to 17-year-olds—at least 13 million of them—have had two Pfizer shots.
A CDC official said she hopes parents will become more interested in having their children vaccinated as more information about the omicron cornavirus variant becomes available. Walensky said in her statement that data show boosters "help broaden and strengthen protection against omicron and other variants." In their meeting, committee members emphasized that booster shots are less important than masking and the initial vaccine doses, per USA Today. The FDA approved giving boosters to those as young as 12 earlier in the week. (Read more COVID booster shots stories.)