The Food and Drug Administration authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.
The authorization comes as an amendment to the Emergency Use Authorization granted to the pharmaceutical company’s vaccine in the spring of 2021.
After they are given their primary doses of the vaccine, children in the eligible age bracket can now be given one single-dose booster of the vaccine.
“While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer term effects, even following initially mild disease,” said Dr. Robert M. Califf, the FDA Commissioner, in the agency’s announcement on May 17.
“Vaccination continues to be the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 and its severe consequences, and it is safe,” Califf. “If your child is eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and has not yet received their primary series, getting them vaccinated can help protect them from the potentially severe consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death.”
The FDA authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine for minors between the ages of 12 and 15 on Jan. 3. The booster shot has also already been approved for anyone over the age of 16 who has been vaccinated.
According to the World Health Organization, about 66 out of every 100 people in the United States population are fully vaccinated compared to the global average of 60. Additionally, 30 out of 100 population have received a booster shot.
In the last seven days, the U.S. has recorded 597,113 new cases of COVID-19 and 2,029 deaths attributed to the virus.
The FDA’s announcement could result in changes in schools’ vaccination policies.
Puerto Rico announced in January that all students over the age of 12 would be required to take the booster dose of the vaccine following the FDA’s authorization. The government set a Feb. 15 deadline for students to comply with the requirement.
“We cannot let our guard down,” said Governor Pedro Pierluisi during his announcement.
California was the first state in the country to add the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of required vaccines for students ages 12 and older.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella – there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19,” said Governor Gavin Newsom during the October announcement. “Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The requirement was scheduled to go into effect on July 1 ahead of the 2022-2023 school year but has since been delayed until the summer of 2023.
In addition to California, a vaccine mandate is in effect for school-aged children in Washington D.C. district schools.