CDC endorses Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for young kids: Distribution starts now

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In what represents the final government hurdle for vaccinating young kids against SARS-CoV-2, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given the green light for Pfizer’s “kid dose” COVID-19 vaccine. The decision comes days after the FDA’s authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, that following a recent recommendation from a panel of experts.

The process to get the COVID-19 vaccines administered to the public is a lengthy one, though government agencies have rapidly increased the rate at which they proceed given the pressing nature of the pandemic. Following a recommendation from its independent panel of experts, the FDA revised its Pfizer COVID-19 authorization to include a two-dose protocol for kids ages 5 to 11.

This was a key step to vaccinating school-age children, though the CDC would first have to clear the vaccine’s use for this age group and determine the protocol used to administer the inoculation. As anticipated, it only took around a week for the CDC to complete its part of the process, with the agency’s own Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices giving a unanimous recommendation.

Young COVID cases rising

According to the CDC, it is expected that immunizations against COVID-19 for the 5 to 11 age group will start immediately. The news comes as a relief to parents who have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to vaccinate their young children, particularly now that many schools have resumed in-person classes.

Though older adults and individuals who have certain preexisting conditions like type-2 diabetes are at the greatest risk of developing severe COVID-19, young kids aren’t entirely without risk. Children’s hospitals reported a spike in cases among young kids that resulted in hospitalization and breathing assistance this past summer. As well, SARS-CoV-2 can result in debilitating inflammatory issues called MIS-C in young kids, as well as the potential for long-term symptoms.

Backing up a letter signed by multiple children’s hospital CEOs, the CDC revealed as part of its announcement today that the number of kids and teens hospitalized with COVID-19 from late June to mid-August “increased fivefold,” underscoring the contagious and risky nature of the Delta variant.

As part of its authorization announcement, the FDA had revealed that Pfizer’s “kid dose” COVID-19 vaccine offered 91-percent against the disease in young kids. As well, the clinical trials upon which the authorization is based showed only mild side effects similar to what adults experience, particularly a sore arm for a day or two after receiving the shot.

Availability

With this hurdle out of the way, distribution of the Pfizer vaccine for kids will start in the US this week, with the plan to scale up to full capacity scheduled for November 8. Parents who move quickly should be able to get their young kids vaccinated with the first dose before Thanksgiving, bringing the US one step closer to returning to normal.

In a statement about the decision, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, M.P.H., said in a statement:

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. 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.

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