Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), took just a few hours yesterday to endorse the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine.
With this approval, CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States in this age group and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible.
“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,” stated Walensky. “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.”
The ACIP met on Tuesday from about 11:00 am to 5:00 pm to debate the data and side effects of the shots. The vote, which happened at the end of the meeting, came as a unanimous recommendation.
This move comes just four days after the FDA granted emergency use authorization (EUA) of “Comirnaty” Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5–11. A 10 μg dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was authorized for young children—one-third of the original dose given to those age 12 and older.
President Biden made a statement just after the approval, saying that this is “a major step forward for our nation in our fight to defeat the virus.” He added: “Today, we have reached a turning point in our battle against COVID-19: authorization of a safe, effective vaccine for children aged 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.”
When will children start receiving the vaccination? Pediatrician offices (including some in New York City) around the country have already started scheduling appointments for later this week.
Jessica Grant, MD, a pediatrician at Manhattan Valley Pediatrics on the upper west side of New York City, is “excited and hopeful,” about the approval and looks forward to getting the vaccinations going. “It is one step closer to the return to normalcy for our children,” Grant added. The implications of keeping this age group healthy and in school, she asserted, cannot be overstated.
The White House said in their statement that, “The program will ramp up over the coming days, and be fully up and running during the week of November 8. Parents will be able to bring their children to thousands of pharmacies, pediatrician’s offices, schools, and other sites to get vaccinated.”