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Booster shots for vaccinated teens 12 and older were given the okay by the Centers for Disease Control on Wednesday.

An independent panel of doctors and nurses advising the CDC voted 13-1 to recommend teenagers should get boosted against COVID, at five months or more after their first vaccine dose.

The official go-ahead from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected within hours. That means shots could be available to teens who’ve been fully vaccinated for at least five months as soon as this week. About 5 million US teens have been vaccinated for at least 5 months, making them eligible for a booster shot. But about half of US teenagers haven’t been vaccinated at all.

As omicron surges and many students return to the classroom following winter break, the CDC is hoping boosters will stop the spread. Earlier this week, the FDA authorized the use of the Pfizer booster shot in kids as young as 12 years old. The additional COVID vaccine shots will hopefully further protect this age group against the highly contagious variant of COVID-19.

Boosters were already recommended for everyone ages 16 years and older. On Monday, the FDA said that boosters are ok for those in the 12- to 15-year-old age group. Those 12 and older can get one as early as five months after their last dose of the vaccine rather than waiting six months for the third shot.

Right now, Pfizer is the only option for children of any age when it comes to the COVID vaccine. Authorities say that getting the booster can prevent milder breakthrough infections from omicron. While kids ages 5-11 just recently became eligible to receive the vaccine, the FDA said that those younger kids who have weakened immune systems may be eligible for a booster as little as 28 days from their second shot.

These changes come as omicron continues to surge across the US and hospitalizations in NJ are at their highest level since May 2020.

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