U.S. regulators authorized the first COVID-19 vaccines for infants and preschoolers on Friday, paving the way for vaccinations to begin next week.
The Food and Drug Administration’s action follows the unanimous recommendation of its Moderna and Pfizer Vaccine Advisory Board. This means that American children under the age of 5 – about 18 million young people – are eligible for vaccines, about a year and a half after the vaccines were first made available in the United States for adults, which have been the most hard hit during the pandemic.
The FDA has also licensed Moderna’s vaccine for school-aged children and adolescents. Pfizer injections were previously the only ones available for these ages.
One step remains: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends how vaccines should be used, and its vaccine advisers are expected to discuss vaccines for younger children on Friday and vote on Saturday. Final approval would come from CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
During a Senate hearing on Thursday, Walensky said his staff were working over the June 19 federal holiday weekend “because we understand the urgency of this for American parents.”
She said pediatric deaths from COVID-19 were higher than what is typically seen from the flu each year.
“So I actually think we need to protect young children, as well as protect everyone with the vaccine and especially protect the elderly,” she said.
For weeks, the Biden administration has been preparing to roll out the vaccines. States, tribes, community health centers and pharmacies have pre-ordered millions of doses. The FDA’s emergency use authorization allows manufacturers to begin shipping vaccines across the country. Vaccinations could start as early as Monday or Tuesday.
Some parents look forward to being able to protect their little ones.
While young children typically don’t get as sick from COVID-19 as older children and adults, their hospitalizations increased during the omicron wave and FDA advisers determined that the benefits of vaccination outweighed the benefits. minimal risks. Studies from Moderna and Pfizer showed that side effects, including fever and fatigue, were mostly minor.
Both brands use the same technology but there are differences.
Pfizer’s vaccine for children under 5 is one-tenth the adult dose. Three injections are needed: the first two given three weeks apart and the last at least two months later.
Moderna is made up of two injections, each one a quarter of its adult dose, given about four weeks apart for children under 6 years old.
The vaccines are intended for children from the age of 6 months. Moderna then plans to study her shots for babies as young as 3 months old. Pfizer has not finalized plans for injections in young infants. A dozen countries, including China, already vaccinate children under 5.
Dr. Beth Ebel, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, said toddler-sized vaccines would be particularly welcomed by American parents with children in daycare where epidemics can ward off parents from their jobs, adding to the financial pressure.
“A lot of people are going to be happy and a lot of grandparents are going to be happy too, because we missed those babies who grew up when you couldn’t see them,” Ebel said.
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