CONNECTICUT — The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 booster for children as young as 12 in our area, broadening access to the third dose of the vaccine as COVID-19 daily infection rates remain in record territory.
The shots won’t be available to adolescents and younger teens in Connecticut immediately, though. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to rule on the expanded access later this week.
Also, regulators authorized a third Pfizer vaccine shot five months after the second dose, shortening the wait period for the booster by a month, and authorized the boosters to immunocompromised children ages 5-11. Just over 22 percent of that child population has received is fully vaccinated, according to the most recent data released by the Department of Public Health last week.
Booster shots are already recommended for everyone over 16. Most vaccine providers in Connecticut offer booster shots as well as first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state’s vaccine portal. You can receive a booster through your healthcare provider, a vaccine clinic, or participating pharmacies. Talk to your doctor or visit Vaccines.gov to find a nearby pharmacy or vaccine clinic. Connecticut residents without access to the internet or who are unable to schedule their appointment online can dial 2-1-1 for assistance (toll free 1-800-203-1234).
The FDA’s authorization comes as health experts warn of a “blizzard of infections” following a busy holiday season bookended by two full weekends of celebration.
“We are going to see the number of cases in this country rise so dramatically, we are going to have a hard time keeping everyday life operating,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told MSNBC.
“The next month is going to be a viral blizzard,” he said. “All of society is going to be pressured by this.”
COVID-19 infections are likely to rise throughout January, according to a statement last week by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden’s science adviser on the coronavirus task force.
The CDC said last week it had significantly overestimated the prevalence of omicron, the coronavirus variant that is behind the current surge of infections. The agency said on Dec. 18 that omicron was responsible for 73 percent of COVID-19 infections, but slashed that figure to 23 percent.
The early data on the omicron variant has shown it is less severe than the delta variant, but health officials are still pushing vaccinations, masks and physical distancing.
Vaccinations offer strong protection against any variant of the coronavirus, but federal health officials urge everyone who is eligible for a booster shot to get one as their best chance to avoid serious COVID-19 breakthrough infections from the highly contagious omicron variant.
Children tend to have milder COVID-19 illnesses than adults, yet child hospitalizations are soaring during the omicron wave, most of them among unvaccinated children.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is the only one authorized in the United States for children. About 13.5 million youths ages 12 to 17 — just over half of those eligible — have gotten two Pfizer shots, according to the CDC.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.