COVID-19 vaccines will become available for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in the United States for the first time next week.
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the vaccines for children as young as six months old, and the final signoff came hours later from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director.
“We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” Walensky said in a statement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday authorized Moderna’s shot for children aged six months to five years, and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children aged six months to four years. Pfizer’s vaccine is already authorized for children over the age of five. While the FDA approves the vaccines themselves, it’s the CDC that decides who should get them.
“This infection kills children and we have an opportunity to prevent that,” Beth Bell, one of the doctors on the panel, said following the vote. “Here is an opportunity to prevent a known risk.”
Rollout to begin next week
President Joe Biden’s administration plans to roll out the vaccines to the under-five age groups as early as next week.
“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,” Biden said in a statement on Friday.
“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.”
CVS plans to provide vaccines to children aged 18 months and older while Rite Aid and Walmart pharmacies plan to offer these shots for kids who are at least three years old. Infants are traditionally vaccinated at a doctor’s office.
While many parents in the United States are eager to vaccinate their children, it is unclear how strong demand will be for the shots. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for children aged five to 11 in October, but only about 29 per cent of that group is so far fully vaccinated, federal data shows.
Public health officials have been pushing for these vaccinations ahead of the new school year as they hope shots for the age group will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths if COVID-19 cases rise again.
COVID-19 is generally more mild in children. Still, since March 2020 it has been the fifth leading cause of death in children aged one to four and the fourth leading cause of death in children younger than one, according to the CDC.
There is no COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada on children younger than five years old. Older Canadian children have been able to get a COVID-19 vaccine for months — Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for kids five and up and Moderna’s for children six and up.
WATCH | Canadian doctor reacts to U.S. approvals: