The United States will begin vaccinating children at six months after the CDC clears the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for infants, young children and preschoolers.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved vaccines against COVID-19 for children as young as six months old, allowing nationwide deployment to begin next week.
The CDC’s decision came Saturday after a group of advisers to the institution voted to recommend vaccines against COVID-19 for these children.
“We know that millions of parents and caregivers are eager to vaccinate their young children, and with today’s decision, they can,” said Rochelle Valenski, director of the CDC, in a statement.
The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the Moderna Inc vaccine for children aged six months to five years and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged six months to four years. The Pfizer vaccine is now approved for children over the age of five.
“This infection is killing children and we have an opportunity to prevent it,” said Beth Bell, one of the doctors in the consultation panel, after the vote. “Here’s an opportunity to prevent some risk.”
US President Joe Biden hailed the decision as a “monumental step” and said his administration plans to release vaccines for under-fives next week.
“This week, parents will be able to start scheduling appointments at places such as pediatricians, children’s hospitals and pharmacies,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.
“Appointments will increase as more doses are sent, and in the coming weeks, any parent who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.”
Approximately 18 million children will be eligible, but it remains to be seen how many will eventually receive the vaccines. Less than a third of children aged 5 to 11 have done so since their vaccination was launched last November.
The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is for children from 6 months to 4 years of age. The dose is one tenth of the adult dose and three injections are needed. The first two are given at intervals of three weeks, and the last at least two months later.
Moderna’s is two injections, each a quarter of the adult dose, given at intervals of about four weeks for children aged 6 months to 5 years. The FDA has also approved a third dose, at least a month after the second injection, for children with immune conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness.
CVS Health Corp says it plans to provide vaccines to children aged 18 months and older, while Rite Aid Corp and Walmart Inc plan to offer these vaccines to children who are at least three years old. Babies are traditionally vaccinated in a doctor’s office.
Public health officials are pushing for vaccinations for children before the new school year, hoping that age-old vaccines will help prevent hospitalization and death if COVID-19 cases rise again.
COVID-19 is usually milder in children.
However, since the pandemic began, about 480 children under the age of five are among more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths nationwide, according to federal data.
So-called prolonged COVID is also a problem, as is multisystemic inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious post-viral condition.
“It is worth getting vaccinated, although the number of deaths is relatively rare because these deaths are preventable through vaccination,” said Dr. Matthew Daly, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente Colorado on the CDC’s advisory committee.
CDC advisers will meet again next week to consider whether to support the use of Moderna for children and adolescents aged 6-17.
There have been some concerns about the incidence of rare cases of heart inflammation in teenagers and young men with the Moderna vaccine, and counselors are expected to take these data into account.