The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended Covid-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old, allowing a nationwide rollout to begin next week.
The CDC’s decision came after a panel of the institution’s advisers voted earlier Saturday to recommend Covid-19 vaccines for those children.
“We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Moderna Inc’s vaccine 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 licensed for children over five.
“This infection is killing children and we have an opportunity to prevent that,” said Beth Bell, one of the doctors on the advisory committee, after the vote. “Here is an opportunity to prevent a known risk.”
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement that the move was a “historic step”.
President Joe Biden’s administration plans to roll out the vaccines to under-fives as early as next week.
“This coming week, parents will be able to start scheduling appointments at places like pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals and pharmacies,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.
“Appointments will ramp up as more doses are shipped, and in the weeks to come, every parent who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. intensifies, Vaccines.gov will go live next week with vaccine availability and appointments increasing throughout the week.”
While many parents in the United States are eager to get their children vaccinated, it’s unclear how strong the demand for vaccines will be. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was licensed for children ages 5 to 11 in October, but only about 29% of that group is fully vaccinated so far, according to federal data.
CVS Health Corp plans to provide vaccines to children aged 18 months and older while Rite Aid Corp and Walmart Inc plan to provide these vaccines to children aged three and over. Infants are traditionally vaccinated in a doctor’s office.
Public health officials have been pushing for childhood vaccinations ahead of the new school year as they hope vaccines for the age group will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths if Covid-19 cases spike again.
Covid-19 is generally milder in children. Yet, as of March 2020, it is the fifth leading cause of death among children between the ages of one and four and the fourth leading cause of death among children under the age of one, according to the CDC.
CDC advisers will meet again next week to consider whether to support the use of the Moderna vaccine for children and adolescents ages 6 to 17. The rate of rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young men from the Moderna vaccine has raised concerns, and counselors should consider this data.