Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday endorsed coronavirus vaccines for children as young as 6 months old – one of the final steps before shots can go into arms.
The CDC’s vaccine committee voted overwhelmingly to recommend the shots from Moderna and Pfizer. The CDC director is expected to approve the committee’s recommendation shortly.
The decision comes after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots of Friday.
“We are the first country to protect our youngest children with COVID-19 vaccines, offering safe and highly effective mRNA doses to children as young as six months old,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “My Administration secured vaccine doses for America’s youngest children and now with FDA’s authorization, we will begin shipping millions of vaccine doses for kids to thousands of locations parents know and trust – including pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals, and pharmacies.”
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The Biden administration said it expects shots to begin on Tuesday. Within a matter of weeks, any parent who wants to get their child vaccinated will be able to get an appointment, it said.
It’s unclear just how many parents will jump on the opportunity two years into the pandemic. According to a poll from Kaiser Family Foundation published last month, 18% of parents with kids in the age group will get them vaccinated right away. It’s perhaps not a surprising estimate, given that just 29% of children 5-11 years old are considered fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
Children are less likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 and die than older populations. Still, hundreds of children have died from COVID-19 during the pandemic.
“As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement announcing the emergency use authorization.
According to data from the companies, the three-dose Pfizer vaccine was about 80% effective at preventing symptomatic infection and the two-dose Moderna shot was 51% effective at preventing symptomatic illness for kids 6 months to 2 years and 37% effective for kids ages 2 to 5 years during the omicron wave.