The FDA’s emergency authorization comes a day after Pfizer and BioNTech released initial lab data indicating that booster shots provide high levels of protection against the highly mutated omicron variant of the virus that causes Covid-19.
The preliminary data found that omicron significantly reduces the protection provided by the initial two-dose series. Boosters, on the other hand, fight the variant at levels comparable to the 95% protection provided by the two-dose series against the original strain of the virus, the lab results showed.
“As people gather indoors with family and friends for the holidays, we can’t let up on all the preventive public health measures that we have been taking during the pandemic,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a press release. “With both the delta and omicron variants continuing to spread, vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to authorize boosters for 16- and 17-year-olds before the shots are administered. The CDC cleared booster shots for all adults 18 and over last month.
Public health authorities in the U.S. are calling for everyone who is eligible to get a booster shot, amid fears of a winter Covid surge driven by the delta variant and uncertainty about the future course of the pandemic due to omicron.
The efficacy of the initial two-dose vaccination series was declining before the arrival of omicron.
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