Image: National Geographic
Pfizer’s kid-size COVID-19 shot received final approval from US health officials on Tuesday, ushering in a major expansion of the country’s vaccination campaign to children as young as five.
The Food and Drug Administration has already approved the shots for children aged 5 to 11 — doses that are one-third that of teens and adults. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes formal recommendations about who should receive FDA-approved vaccines.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made the announcement just hours after an advisory panel unanimously decided that Pfizer’s shots should be made available to the 28 million children in that age group.
“As a mom, I encourage parents who have questions to speak with their pediatrician, school nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated,” Walensky said in a statement Tuesday night.
Earlier in the day, she stated that, while the risk of severe disease and death is lower in young children than in adults, it exists — and that COVID-19 has had a profound social, mental health, and educational impact on children, including widening learning disparities.”There are children in second grade who have never had a typical school year,” Walensky explained. “Vaccination for children has the potential to help us change all of that.”
President Joe Biden described the decision as a “watershed moment.”
“It will allow parents to stop worrying about their children for months, and it will reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others,” he said in a statement. “It is a significant step forward in our nation’s fight to defeat the virus.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics applauded the decision as its members prepared to begin the first injections into small arms, which the CDC said could begin “as soon as possible.” The 5- to 11-year-olds will receive two low doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, three weeks apart – on the same schedule as everyone else, but with a smaller needle.
Pfizer began shipping millions of the pediatric shots to states, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies over the weekend — in orange caps, to avoid cross-contamination with adult vaccine vials in purple caps.