Coronavirus: CDC updates Pfizer-BioNTech booster recommendation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday updated its recommendations for people who received the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, saying that people are eligible to receive mRNA booster shots five months after becoming fully vaccinated.

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Previously, officials recommended that people get their booster shots six months after receiving their second vaccine dose.

The CDC also said Tuesday that children between the ages of five and 11 who have “moderately to severely weakened immune systems” are eligible to get an addition dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 28 days after receiving their second shots.

In a statement, CDC officials noted that “the booster interval recommendation for people who received that (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine (2 months) or the Moderna vaccine (6 months) has not changed.”

The new guidance came after the Food and Drug Administration on Monday amended an emergency use authorization issued for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to shorten the time before people aged 12 and older became eligible to get a booster dose. Officials said the move was aimed at protecting Americans as health personnel grapple with the impact of the omicron variant.

“As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to update our recommendations to ensure the best possible protection for the American people,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday in a statement. “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.”

On Monday, the FDA also authorized booster shots for children between the ages of 12 and 15. On Tuesday, Walensky said the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices plans to meet Wednesday to discuss recommending the shots.

>> Related: FDA approves Pfizer COVID-19 boosters for children as young as 12, CDC approval needed

The CDC head urged people who are eligible to get booster or third doses “as soon as you can.”

As of Thursday morning, the last date for which data was available, more than 73% of the U.S. population – 243.5 million people – has gotten at least one dose of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, according to the CDC. About 62% of Americans, or 205.8 million people, have been fully vaccinated, and more than 33% of those who have been fully vaccinated have gotten booster shots, CDC data shows.

Since the start of the pandemic, officials have reported 56.2 million cases of COVID-19 nationwide, resulting in more than 827,000 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, 292.7 million cases have been reported, resulting in 5.4 million deaths, according to the university.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 was first detected in the U.S. on Dec. 1 and has since become the dominant variant linked to coronavirus infections nationwide, according to the CDC.

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