The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old, with the nationwide rollout set to begin next week.
The CDC’s move came after a panel of advisers to the institution voted earlier on Saturday to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old.
“We know that millions of parents and caregivers would like to have their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said in a statement.
On Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Moderna Inc.’s injection for children aged six months to five years and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children aged six months to four years.
Pfizer’s vaccine is already approved for children over the age of five.
“This infection is killing children, and we have a chance to prevent that,” Beth Bell, one of the doctors on the advisory panel, said after the vote.
“Here’s an opportunity to avoid a known risk.”
The administration of US President Joe Biden plans to roll out the vaccines for the under-fives age groups as early as next week.
“Next week, parents can schedule appointments in places such as pediatric practices, children’s hospitals, and pharmacies,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.
“The number of appointments will increase as more doses are sent out, and in the coming weeks, any parent who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. Vaccines.gov will be live next week with vaccine availability as the vaccination program ramps up, and the number of appointments will increase during the week.”
While some parents in the United States would like to vaccinate their children, it’s unclear how big the demand for the injections will be.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved in October for children ages five to 11, only about 29 percent of that group have been fully vaccinated so far, federal data shows.
CVS Health Corp plans to provide vaccines to children 18 months and older, while Rite Aid Corp and Walmart Inc plan to offer these injections to children at least three years old.
Infants are traditionally vaccinated at a doctor’s office.
Public health officials have pushed for children’s vaccinations before the new school year. They hope that age-group injections will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths if the number of COVID-19 cases rises again.
COVID-19 is generally milder in children.
But the CDC says it is the fifth leading cause of death in children ages one to four and the fourth leading cause of death in children under age one as of March 2020.
The CDC advisors will meet again next week to consider whether to support the use of the Moderna vaccine for children and adolescents ages six to 17.
There has been some concern about the rate of rare cases of heart inflammation in teenage boys and young men on the Moderna vaccine, and consultants are expected to consider that data.