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US expands Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster eligibility to include 16- and 17-year-olds

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The U.S. has given the green light for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the vaccine to allow a booster shot for 16- and 17-year-olds at least six months after they finish their primary vaccination series.

"The FDA has determined that the benefits of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine or Comirnaty outweigh the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis in individuals 16 and 17 years of age to provide continued protection against COVID-19 and the associated serious consequences that can occur including hospitalization and death," the agency noted in its news release.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is urging individuals in that age range to get a booster dose.

"Today, CDC is strengthening its booster recommendations and encouraging everyone 16 and older to receive a booster shot," Walensky said in a statement.

"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," Walensky said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said that he expects the definition of full vaccination to eventually be expanded to include a booster.

"It's gonna be a matter of when, not if," the definition changes, Fauci said during an interview on CNN.

Full vaccination currently involves receiving two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

While 71.8% of the U.S. population consisting of individuals ages 18 and above has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, only 26.9% has received a booster, according to the CDC.

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