Children aged 5 to 11 can begin to be vaccinated against Covid-19 within the next day or two after an expert panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine should be used in this age group.
The recommendation, which passed by a 14-0 vote, was approved a couple of hours later by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
“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 in a statement. “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,” Walensky said.
The Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 years of age is the first pediatric Covid vaccine authorized for use in this country. The vaccine is one-third of the size of the adult vaccine doses; children will get two injections containing 10 micrograms of antigen given 21 days apart.
Veronica McNally, the consumer representative on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the mother of a child who is now eligible to be vaccinated, noted that parents of 94 kids have had to bury a child killed by Covid-19. “I really am doing this to prevent number 95. The 95th death,” she said.
The recommendation was applauded by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Sharing this life-saving vaccine with our children is a huge step forward and provides us all with more confidence and optimism about the future,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers said in a statement. “Pediatricians are eager to participate in the immunization process and talk with families about this vaccine. We want to ensure that access to this vaccine is equitable, and that every child is able to benefit.”
A large and vocal portion of American parents have been waiting impatiently for this development, eager to help their children get back on the road to a safer and more predictable future. Their hope is that swift uptake of vaccine in this age group will dramatically reduce the amount of disruption kids face in their day-to-day lives.
How many parents will move to vaccinate their children at this point remains to be seen. Polling estimates vary, with between 34% and 57% of parents surveyed saying they plan to have their children in this age group immunized, CDC’s Sara Oliver, an epidemiologist, told ACIP members during a presentation Tuesday.
While some doses will be available this week, “the program will still be ramping up to its full strength, with millions more doses packed, shipped, and delivered, and thousands of additional sites coming online each day,” Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said on Monday.
He said the kids’ vaccine campaign will be fully up and running next week, and that the administration has secured enough supply of the Pfizer shot for the 28 million kids in the age group.
Michael Hogue, a non-voting representative to the committee from the American Pharmacists Association, warned that parents who want to have their children vaccinated at a pharmacy will likely need to make an appointment and they will probably have to wait. Pharmacies, like many other businesses, are experiencing staffing shortages, Hogue said.