Pfizer on Tuesday said the company and its partner BioNTech submitted a request to expand authorization of its coronavirus booster shot for teens aged 16 and 17
The move to expand eligibility comes as the Biden administration is exhorting everyone currently eligible to get vaccinations and booster shots to protect against the delta and omicron variant.
Currently, only adults over the age of 18 are eligible to receive a booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They can receive the Johnson & Johnson booster two months after getting the single-shot vaccine, and receive a booster of Moderna or Pfizer's shot six months after the second dose.
Only Pfizer has authorized primary doses for children as young as 5 years old.
"It is our hope to provide strong protection for as many people as possible, particularly in light of the new variant," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted Tuesday in announcing the move.
The White House is grappling with how to respond to omicron, which has garnered much attention and anxiety, but without much information about it.
The Biden administration has imposed travel restrictions on eight countries in southern Africa, though the variant has been found in more than a dozen nations, including some in Europe.
Still, administration officials are continuing to urge vaccinations as the first line of defense, and then boosters.
Omicron has not yet been found in the United States, and the delta variant still represents more than 99 percent of all positive cases that have been sequenced, officials said Tuesday. The vaccines remain highly effective against severe disease and death, even after immunity has slightly waned.
The push for widespread booster access has been criticized by some health experts, who argue the benefit is minimal for younger healthy people, and the focus should instead be almost solely on first doses.
The World Health Organization has also been highly critical of rich nations giving booster shots when low-and-middle income countries are struggling with supply and access.
Updated: 10:19 p.m.