US health authorities have accorded approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shot for children as young as 12, and reduced the wait time between initial vaccination and an extra dose from six months to five, for all ages.

The decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes as the pandemic, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, flares up and schoolchildren return by the millions to class following the holiday break.

The FDA also approved a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for immune-compromised children between the ages of five and 11, including for example individuals who have received an organ transplant.

The agency said it relied in particular on data from Israel, where thousands of children aged 12 to 15 have already received the booster dose.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to give its final approval for the decisions, expected in the coming days.

According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, the United States is currently averaging about 400,000 new COVID-19 cases each day, a record high since the pandemic began two years ago.

Hospitalisations have also increased, but not at the same rate and for now remain below the peak recorded one year ago. The hospitalisation of children is also on the rise, with vaccination rates notably lower among younger children. However, officials are eager to keep schools open as much as possible.

US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said that we recognise there may be some bumps in the road, especially this upcoming week” with teachers caught up in the nationwide Covid surge. But the goal is full-time in-person learning for our students. He added that they have suffered enough.

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