Medical

CDC recommends COVID boosters for kids 12 and up

Boosters have already been recommended for people 16 and older as maximum protection against the omicron variant.

Sarah Tew/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late on Wednesday recommended booster doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for kids age 12 and up, at least five months after their second shot. 

A committee that advises the CDC met Wednesday afternoon to vote on whether to lower the age recommendation for booster doses. The panel typically meets to go over data on vaccine safety and effectiveness before shots are recommended to the public. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed the committee's recommendation later Wednesday, opening the door for children as young as 12 to go get a 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. "Today, I endorsed ACIP's vote to expand eligibility and strengthen our recommendations for booster doses. We now recommend that all adolescents aged 12-17 years should receive a booster shot 5 months after their primary series. 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."

Boosters have been available for everyone age 16 and up as health officials encourage extra doses as a way to maximize protection against COVID-19 disease caused by the omicron variant. As COVID cases hit record numbers in the US, including in children, more efforts are being made to protect kids.

Earlier this week, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized boosters for kids ages 12 to 15 and signed off on third doses for immunocompromised children as young as 5. The FDA also shortened the waiting period between people's second dose of Pfizer and the booster from six months to five. (People who received Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine still need to wait at least six months to get a booster, and those who got Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine should wait at least two months.)

Read more: How to find an at-home COVID test today

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is the only one authorized for kids and teens. Children under age 12 who aren't moderately or severely immunocompromised shouldn't get a third COVID-19 shot at this time. 

The booster roll out in the US has been a controversial one. Some health officials have called on countries such as the US and Israel to stop giving extra doses to healthy people while as few as 8.8% of people in low-income countries have had one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. While the new omicron variant does evade some immunity including that which comes from our vaccines, American adults and children who haven't received any COVID-19 shot continue to be much more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 or die from the disease compared to fully vaccinated people.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.