CDC endorses Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for young kids


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, has endorsed a two-dose regimen of Pfizer’s lower-dose mRNA vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 years-old – meaning the shots are now available for immediate use.

The Nov. 2 decision came mere hours after experts that advise the CDC on vaccinations strongly recommended the vaccine for this age group.

“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. 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,” Dr. Walensky said in a prepared statement.

President Joe Biden applauded Dr. Walensky’s endorsement: “Today, we have reached a turning point in our battle against COVID-19: authorization of a safe, effective vaccine for children age 5 to 11. It will allow parents to end months of anxious worrying about their kids, and reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others. It is a major step forward for our nation in our fight to defeat the virus,” he said in a statement.

The 14 members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously earlier in the day to recommend the vaccine for kids.

“I feel like I have a responsibility to make this vaccine available to children and their parents,” said committee member Beth Bell, MD, MPH, a clinical professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Bell noted that all evidence the committee had reviewed pointed to a vaccine that was safe and effective for younger children.

“If I had a grandchild, I would certainly get that grandchild vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said.

Their recommendations follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for this same age group last week.

“I’m voting for this because I think it could have a huge positive impact on [kids’] health and their social and emotional wellbeing,” said Grace Lee, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, who chairs the CDC’s ACIP.

She noted that, though masks are available to reduce the risk for kids, they aren’t perfect and transmission still occurs.

“Vaccines are really the only consistent and reliable way to provide that protection,” Lee said.

The vaccine for children is two doses given 3 weeks apart. Each dose is 10 micrograms, which is one-third of the dose used in adults and teens.

To avoid confusion, the smaller dose for kids will come in bottles with orange labels and orange tops. The vaccine for adults is packaged in purple.

The CDC also addressed the question of kids who are close to age 12 when they get their first dose.

In general, pediatricians allow for a 4-day grace period around birthdays to determine which dose is needed. That will be the same with the COVID-19 vaccine.

For kids who are 11 when they start the series, they should get another 10-microgram dose after they turn 12 a few weeks later.

COVID-19 cases in this age group have climbed sharply over the summer and into the fall as schools have fully reopened, sometimes without the benefit of masks.

In the first week of October, roughly 10% of all COVID-19 cases recorded in the United States were among children ages 5 through 11. Since the start of pandemic, about 1.9 million children in this age group have been infected, though that’s almost certainly an undercount. More than 8,300 have been hospitalized, and 94 children have died.

Children of color have been disproportionately impacted. More than two-thirds of hospitalized children have been black or Hispanic.


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