The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 booster shot for children ages 5 to 11.
The booster dose is available to children five months after completing their primary series of two shots.
The companies submitted for an emergency use authorization from the FDA last month after a study found healthy children in that age group had a safe and strong immune response to the booster.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for younger children. Children in that age group get a dose that is equivalent to one-third of the dose given to adults.
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said that during the omicron wave, more kids are getting sick and being hospitalized.
“Vaccination continues to be the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 and its severe consequences, and it is safe,” Califf said. “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 serious consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death.”
In January, the FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s booster shot for children ages 12 to 15 who complete their initial two-shot series.
That means younger children who received the second of the two-dose series before Dec. 17 are now available for a booster.
Only 28% of kids ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, a rate much lower than the overall population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unvaccinated children in that age group were hospitalized at double the rate of vaccinated children during the beginning of the omicron wave, a CDC study reported in April.
Though COVID-19 hospitalizations remain far below January’s peak, the CDC reported weekly hospitalizations among children increased 8.4% during the second week of May.
Ken Alltucker is on Twitter at @kalltucker, or can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.