CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday signed off on the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 just hours after an agency panel OK’d the shot — paving the way for an estimated 28 million young kids to begin getting their jabs as soon as this week.
The final approval comes after a panel of doctors and public-health experts forming the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the move. The FDA had already cleared the immunization for emergency use in the age group Friday.
“If I had a grandchild. I would certainly get that grandchild vaccinated as soon as possible,” CDC panel member Dr. Beth Bell said in voting for the kiddie vax Tuesday. “And I think many people share that perspective.”
Panelist Dr. Sarah Long, a pediatrics professor at Drexel University College of Medicine, said she was “very supportive” of giving the vaccine to young children, too.
“We should be very confident to employ it to the maximum, to do what it is meant to do, without significant concern about serious adverse events,” Long said.
Walensky had been expected to swiftly give final approval to the shot.
The vaccine is the first OK’d for children in the age group, delivering a third of the dosage given to adults in each of two shots doled out three weeks apart.
President Biden celebrated the authorization and said his administration has secured enough vaccine doses for every kid in the country.
“Today, we have reached a turning point in our battle against COVID-19,” Biden said in a statement. “A vaccine for children age 5 to 11 will allow us to build on the extraordinary progress we’ve made over the last nine months”
The Biden administration said Monday that millions of the kiddie shots were being packed and shipped across the country ahead of the CDC meeting in anticipation that the vaccine would be broadly recommended by the panel.
“These doses — specially designed for these younger children — have started to arrive at thousands of locations across the country,” the president said.
A nationwide push to get the vaccine into youngsters’ arm is expected to be in full swing by next week, with some shots to be ready in just days.
“We are not waiting on the operations and logistics,” the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, told reporters Monday.
The US has enough supply of the vaccine for all 28 million US children between the ages of 5 and 11, Zients said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, has said that pending regulatory hurdles, the Pfizer vaccine would be available for the young age group within the first two weeks of November.
It has already been approved for people ages 12 and up, while Modern and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines have been authorized for those 18 and older.
Some health-care providers in Wisconsin said the kiddie doses could be available there as soon as Wednesday, although Thursday was more likely, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. About 500,000 children in the state instantly became eligible to get the shot with the CDC panel’s ruling, according to the report.
While kids have a lower risk of becoming severely ill or dying from the coronavirus, more than 8,300 5- to 11-year-olds have been hospitalized in the country with it — and a third of them needed intensive care, according to data Friday. A reported 146 COVID-19 deaths in that group have occurred, according to the FDA.
“I’ve seen plenty of children in this age group that have been seriously ill,” Dr. Matthew Linam of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said Tuesday. “The risk of significant infection is still very real in this population.”
Pfizer has said a study found its vaccine for the younger kids is nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections.