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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now cleared the way for children six months through five years old to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, following a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
This expands eligibility for vaccination to nearly 20 million additional children and means that all Americans ages six months and older are now eligible for vaccination. The CDC is advising parents of children in this age group to get either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
Parents are also being encouraged to sign their children up for v-safe – personalized and confidential health check-ins via text messages and web surveys – where they can easily share with the CDC how a child feels after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. This, the agency said, will allow for continuing safety monitoring for the vaccines.
Distribution of pediatric vaccinations for these younger children has started across the country and will be available at thousands of pediatric practices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, local health departments, clinics and other locations this week.
Via statement, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky encouraged parents and caregivers to talk to their doctor, nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of the vaccine.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT?
In response to the CDC’s decision, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra issued a statement calling it a milestone in the federal government’s ongoing efforts to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are following the data and science as we make sure all Americans are eligible and have access to COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to prevent severe disease and save lives,” said Becerra. “Based on CDC and FDA actions, we now know that vaccination for our children six months through 5 years old is safe and effective and we are ready to get millions of children vaccinated.”
Becerra said the agency is working with states, localities, pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals and pharmacies to ensure equitable access to the vaccine.
Walgreens has jumped on the CDC recommendation and will be among the first pharmacy chains to administer the vaccines to children 3 years old and older at select locations across the country. Parents or legal guardians can schedule appointments ahead of the first vaccine shipments, which are slated to arrive this week. Appointments will be available beginning Saturday, June 25.
The pharmacy giant is reminding potential shot-seekers that vaccines for this age group are administered at lower doses than those administered to older groups. Younger children receiving a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should receive the initial two doses 21 days apart and the third dose at least two months following the second dose. Younger children receiving a Moderna offering should receive two doses 28 days apart.
Immunocompromised children in this age group who receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are recommended to receive a third dose at least one month following the second dose to complete a primary vaccine series.
As with all COVID-19 vaccine administration, there will be a 15-minute observation period. To help pass the time, Walgreens stores will have activity sheets and stickers available for children.
THE LARGER TREND
Moderna had originally asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for the vaccine for this age group back in April. The EUA request followed positive interim results from a Phase 2/3 KidCOVE study showing a robust neutralizing antibody response in the 6 month to under 6 years of age group after a two-dose primary series of mRNA-1273, along with a favorable safety profile.
In February, the FDA gave full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older.
Pfizer/BioNTech got full approval for its vaccine in August.
In March, the FDA authorized both Pfizer and Moderna to give a second booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccines to individuals aged 50 and older and to those who are immunocompromised.