UNC infectious disease expert says benefits greatly outweigh risks in Pfizer booster for teens

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control both gave the green light Thursday for eligible 16 and 17-year-olds to receive Pfizer boosters.

Dr. David Wohl, a UNC infectious disease professor, said although teens are known to better fight off COVID-19, Pfizer boosters are coming at a pivotal time as new variants spread and cases rise during the winter.

“The higher your antibody level is, the better you’re going to be protected, not just against delta, but against omicron and probably for whatever is going to come down the road later on,” Wohl said. “Nobody wants to get sick because the teenager or the younger child brought it home and we know that’s a vulnerability.”

There is a rare side effect seen in some young adults after M-RNA vaccines called myocarditis, or a swelling of the heart.

But a recent study by the American Heart Association this week shows most of the teens with this side effect recovered quickly with mild symptoms.

“Your chances of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, is higher with COVID-19 than it is with these vaccines,” Wohl said.

Wohl said teens are still more likely to develop heart issues with the virus itself rather than the vaccine.

“So let’s be really clear, if you’re worried about myocarditis, then you should get vaccinated,” Wohl said.

North Carolina’s health department reports that only 42 percent of teens 12 to 17 have received their first two vaccine shots.

“If we had 80, 90 percent of folks vaccinated we wouldn’t be talking about a surge like last year,” Wohl said. “But I am worried we’re on track to see something along the lines of what we saw last year.”

Right now, Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine approved for children and teens.

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