US to roll out COVID vaccines for youngest children next week | Coronavirus pandemic News

The United States will begin vaccinating children as young as six months after the CDC clears vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old, allowing for nationwide rollout starting next week.

The CDC’s decision on Saturday came after a panel of advisors at the institution voted 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 the 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.”

US President Joe Biden hailed the decision as a “monumental step” and said his 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.”

About 18 million children will be eligible, but it remains to be seen how many will ultimately receive the vaccines. Less than a third of children aged 5 to 11 have done so since vaccination was opened to them last November.

The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is intended for children 6 months to 4 years old. The dose is one tenth of the adult dose and three injections are required. The first two are 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 6 months to 5 years old. The FDA has also approved a third dose, at least one month after the second injection, for children with immune disorders that make them more susceptible to serious illnesses.

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 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 since the start of the pandemic, some 480 children under the age of five have been counted among the more than one million COVID-19 deaths nationwide, according to federal data.

So-called long COVID is also of concern, as is multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious post-viral disease.

“It’s worth vaccinating even if the number of deaths is relatively rare, because those deaths can be prevented through vaccination,” said Dr. Matthew Daley, a Kaiser Permanente Colorado researcher who serves on the CDC’s advisory board.

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.

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