United States Food and Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s COVID vaccine booster shots for individuals between the age of 16 and 17 on Thursday. The news comes as the Omicron variant of the deadly virus tightens its grip in the country.

However, an expert panel of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the final hurdles the new move would face. If endorsed, the request for emergency authorisation will be forwarded to Rochelle Walensky, the chief of the health body.

The country has so far only approved Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for everyone aged between 5 and 18 years old, including the booster doses. It is still not yet clear if or when teens younger than 16 might need a third Pfizer dose.

Vaccinations for children as young as 5 just began last month, using special low-dose Pfizer shots. By this week, about 5 million 5- to 11-year-olds had gotten the first dose, according to reports from Associated Press.

Also Read: COVID cases increase as US reaches vaccination milestone

Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement, “Vaccination and getting a booster when eligible, along with other preventive measures like masking and avoiding large crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, remain our most effective methods for fighting COVID-19.”

The official added, “As people gather indoors with family and friends for the holidays, we can not let up on all the preventive public health measures that we have been taking during the pandemic. With both the delta and omicron variants continuing to spread, vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19.”

The extra-contagious Delta variant is causing nearly all COVID-19 infections in the United States, and in much of the world. It is not yet clear how vaccines will hold up against the new and markedly different Omicron mutant.

However, according to AP reports, there is strong evidence that boosters offer a jump in protection against delta-caused infections, currently the biggest threat.