COVID-19 booster doses authorized for 16- and 17-year-olds

Dec. 11, 2021 — On Dec. 9, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized the use of booster doses of Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccines for persons 16 and 17 years of age who have already completed their vaccination series.

Shortly after the boosters were authorized for the new age group, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, including Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada, released a statement supporting the CDC’s recommendation.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released updated guidance for providers so that Oregonians aged 16 and 17 who have completed their initial Pfizer vaccination series at least six months earlier can immediately begin receiving a booster dose.

“It’s great news that now even more Oregonian adolescents are eligible for booster shots,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “We know the measures that are effective in protecting against COVID-19 and variants: vaccinations, boosters and masks. These measures are key to ending the pandemic and keeping our friends and loved ones safe.”

Boosters were authorized last month for all persons in the United States 18 years and older by the two federal agencies and by the workgroup for eligible adults in the four Western states.

A booster is a vaccine dose given to a person whose immune response from the primary vaccine series has waned over time. Booster doses help people maintain strong immunity to disease longer. The first vaccine series builds up the immune system to make the antibodies needed to fight the disease. Over time, the immune response weakens. A booster dose stimulates the initial response and tends to result in higher antibody levels that help people maintain their immunity longer.

"The scientists, medical experts and health officials who reviewed studies on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines have determined that the benefits provided by a booster merit their use for this group,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and state epidemiologist.  “We already know that protection can wane over time, and the boosters will continue to provide younger Oregonians continued protection, just as boosters are doing for Oregonians 18 years and older.”

There are an estimated 100,000 Oregonians ages 16 and 17. Of this group, approximately 25,000 are now eligible for boosters following today’s approvals. Another 25,000 persons in this age group will be eligible by the end of this month, and up to 7,000 persons who are 16 and 17 years of age will become eligible for boosters through first part of 2022.

“This is another step in expanding the numbers of persons who are protected, as we continue to deal with the Delta variant in our communities and plan for the arrival of the Omicron variant, which is already found in more than a third of states,” said Sidelinger.

All COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free. They are available throughout the state at pharmacies, health providers, Tribal clinics and community vaccination clinics.

Because of the recent expansion of booster eligibility to those 18 years and older and the authorization of pediatric vaccine for persons ages 5 to 11, residents may experience temporary delays scheduling an appointment.

OHA asks everyone to be patient as the state’s vaccine providers work to address the increased demand for vaccinations. Anyone who is eligible to receive their primary, booster or third doses will be able to receive one.

Visit OHA’s boosters and third doses webpage at for more information.