A panel of advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday voted to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months, making it likely a nationwide roll-out can start next week.
The 12-0 vote in favour of the move needs to be signed off by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky for the U.S. government to start rolling out the vaccines for children aged 5 and under.
This expands eligibility for vaccination to nearly 20 million additional children and means that all Americans ages 6 months and older are now eligible for vaccination.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday authorized Moderna Inc’s shot for children aged six months to 5 years, and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children aged six months to 4 years.
FDA reports that this infection kills children and that they have an opportunity to prevent that according to Beth Bell, one of the doctors on the panel, said following the vote.
President Joe Biden’s administration plans to roll out the vaccines to the under-5 age groups as early as next week.
In a statement issued on Friday, United States President Joe Biden says, “We will begin shipping millions of vaccine doses for kids to thousands of locations parents know and trust – including pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals, and pharmacies… As doses are delivered, parents will be able to start scheduling vaccinations for their youngest kids as early as next week, with appointments ramping up over the coming days and weeks.”
While many parents in the US are eager to vaccinate their children, it is unclear how strong demand will be for the shots.
Pfizer authorised for children under 5
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorised for children aged 5 to 11 in October, but only about 29% of that group is so far fully vaccinated, federal data shows.
CVS Health Corp plans to provide vaccines to children aged 18 months and older while Rite Aid Corp and Walmart Inc plan to offer these shots for kids who are at least 3 years old.
Infants are traditionally vaccinated at a doctor’s office.
Public health officials have been pushing for childhood vaccinations ahead of the new school year as they hope shots for the age group will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths of COVID-19 cases rise again.
Fifth leading cause of death in toddlers
COVID-19 is generally milder in children. Still, since March 2020 it has been the fifth leading cause of deaths in children aged 1-4 and the fourth leading cause of death in children younger than one, according to the CDC.
CDC advisers will meet again next week to consider whether to back use of the Moderna vaccine for children and adolescents aged 6-17. There has been some concern about the rate of rare cases of heart inflammation in teenage boys and young men from the Moderna vaccine, and the advisers are expected to consider that data.