The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended COVID-19 vaccinations for U.S. children between the ages of 5-11, following FDA recommendation of the move.
In a release on the CDC website, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, endorsed an advisory committee recommendation that children in that age range get the Pfizer/BioNTech pediatric vaccine.
The move expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible.
“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus that causes COVID-19,” Walensky said. “We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated,” she added.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months.
The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer. During a six-week period in late June to mid-August, the CDC said, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold.
Medical experts hope approval for this age group will spur more parents to have their eligible children get the shots—something they say benefits the community at large.
“In addition to protecting children from COVID-19, this offers another layer of protection to close family members and contacts who may have immune problems or who may be at higher risk for severe complications of the disease,” Thomas Murray, MD, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist, said in a story posted at yalemedicine.org.
Vaccination, along with other preventative measures, can protect children from COVID-19 using the safe and effective vaccines already recommended for use in adolescents and adults in the United States, the CDC said.
Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm, the CDC said in its release.
Distribution of pediatric vaccinations across the country started this week, with plans to scale up to full capacity starting the week of Nov. 8. Vaccines will be available at thousands of pediatric healthcare provider offices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and more.