A young girl holds someones hand while a nurse sticks a needle in her arm.
A Portland Public Schools student getting vaccinated at a school pop-up clinic. Portland Public Schools

Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster shot, Oregon officials announced Friday. Oregon youth who finished their initial vaccine series at least five months ago can get a booster immediately and immunocompromised kids who already received a third dose are eligible for a fourth shot.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a panel of experts that guides Oregon’s immunization decisions, approved the booster eligibility Thursday evening following the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations earlier in the week. Governor Kate Brown made the final authorization Friday.

“This is great news for parents and children, who can be confident in the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids and the extra protection a booster dose provides,” said Governor Kate Brown in a press release. "I encourage everyone eligible to find a vaccine or booster appointment near you today.”

While the state has enough children’s vaccine supply for kids to start receiving booster shots immediately, limited healthcare staff may make scheduling a booster shot appointment at local pharmacies difficult in populous areas of the state like Portland. Parents are encouraged to reach out to their healthcare provider to schedule a vaccine appointment. Multnomah County also maintains a list of recurring community vaccine clinics in the region.

When seeking authorization from the CDC earlier this week, representatives from Pfizer said the booster dose will help protect children against the omicron variant. While the initial two doses of the Pfizer vaccine protected children against other COVID strains, Pfizer found that protection against symptomatic infection with omicron was “no longer significant” after three months of completing the initial vaccine series. Omicron and its subvariants account for all of the currently reported COVID cases in Oregon, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

Since first becoming eligible for a COVID vaccine in November, just 36 percent of Oregon kids ages 5 to 11 have received two doses of the vaccine.

As COVID cases rise throughout the state—including in school classrooms—Oregon health officials have stressed that being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from severe illness.

“If we each take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones, COVID-19 does not have to dominate our lives,” state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said during a press conference this week. “Being vaccinated and boosted is the best way to protect ourselves from severe disease.”