On Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that children 5 to 11 be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine.
The move clears the way for shots to be administered as soon as tomorrow, though it may be a few days before the vaccine is widely available.
“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,” said Dr. Walensky in a press release. “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.”
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 6-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold.
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.
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.
President Biden issued a statement calling the decision “a turning point in our battle against COVID-19,” and said the federal government has purchased enough of the low-dose children’s vaccine “for every child in America.”
Shipments of the vaccine started last Friday following the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to authorize the vaccine in this age group. White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said some 15 million doses are being shipped this week, and the federal program for distributing the vaccine “will be fully operational” by next Monday, Nov. 8.