Last week, on May 17th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a booster shot for school-aged children. The approval is vital to making a third shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine available to children between 5 – 11 years old. Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that children in this age group receive a third vaccine dose to boost their immunity.

The announcement came one day after top officials in the Biden administration warned that one-third of Americans live in areas facing growing coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The number of new infections is closing in on 100,000 a day. Officials point out that this is most likely an undercount given the widespread use of at-home tests for which results are often not reported.

While kids generally don’t get as sick as adults, the omicron wave has resulted in “more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer term effects, even following initially mild disease,” according to FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stated, “Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups, leaving them vulnerable to serious illness. With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected.”

The CDC reiterated that all people 50 and older and immunocompromised individuals 12 and older should get a second booster dose to be considered up to date on their coronavirus vaccinations.

Officials stressed that the current situation is far less dire than the winter omicron-variant surge, but that’s not a reason to let our guard down. Some experts have warned that this summer’s surge could be worse than last year’s, since cases are higher now than last May. There’s also the potential for a fall and winter wave resulting in about 1 million daily coronavirus infections. These waves are being driven by omicron subvariants that are showing a remarkable ability to escape immunity.

Besides getting vaccinated, Dr. Walensky strongly encouraged those living in communities where the number of new infections and hospitalizations are increasing to consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces and taking other steps to protect themselves. The Biden administration said households could order a third round of at-home rapid tests, with eight additional tests available per household.

Vaccines are very effective for reducing severe disease and death but don’t eliminate them, so reducing the spread and cases is critical. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, expressed, “We’ve got to do what we can to prevent infections. We’ve got to do what we can to ensure that infections don’t turn into severe illness.”