(The Hill) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Tuesday that Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine recipients get a booster dose five months after their second shot instead of the previously approved six months.
The agency endorsed the shorter period after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the reduced timeline on Monday for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The CDC still suggests that Johnson & Johnson and Moderna recipients receive their boosters two months and six months, respectively, after completing the primary series.
The CDC also suggested moderately and severely immunocompromised 5- to 11-year-olds get an additional dose about a month after their second shot, aligning their recommendations for the age group with immunocompromised adults.
“Following the FDA’s authorizations, today’s recommendations ensure people are able to get a boost of protection in the face of Omicron and increasing cases across the country and ensure that the most vulnerable children can get an additional dose to optimize protection against COVID-19,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
The CDC’s advisory panel is slated to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to recommend boosters for 12- to 15-year-olds after the FDA expanded access to the extra doses among young teens.
The agencies’ moves to broaden eligibility for booster doses come as the omicron variant has sparked a rapid uptick in cases across the country.
Daily infections have more than tripled in two weeks, according to data from The New York Times, but experts say hospitalizations, which have risen at a lower rate of 41% in the past two weeks, are a better indication of omicron’s severity.
While vaccinated people still have protection against the highly transmissible strain, the omicron variant has driven more breakthrough cases. But research has shown booster doses provide much stronger protection, prompting health officials to extend access to boosters in recent months, including to all adults and 16- and 17-year-olds.
With the CDC’s recommendations, immunocompromised 5- to 11-year-olds are the only ones in the age group eligible for a booster, as children return to school after the holiday break amid a surge.