U.S. gives final clearance to COVID-19 shots for kids 5 to 11

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday fired the starting gun on a campaign to inoculate the nation’s 28 million elementary-school-age children against COVID-19, recommending the broad use of kid-size doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The campaign to inoculate children against COVID-19 is expected to start this week Pfizer has already shipped the first orders of vials with orange caps to all 50 states and local pharmacies.

Children between the ages of 5 and 11 will get two shots of vaccine — at one-third the dosage of shots for teens and adults — administered three weeks apart.

The CDC estimates that if the vaccine is widely used, 600,000 new coronavirus infections could be prevented between now and next March, and the current decline in new cases would accelerate.

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said she was thrilled to extend the protection already enjoyed by 193 million Americans to a group whose lives have been upended by the 20-month pandemic.

“We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated,” Walensky said, adding that Tuesday will go down as “a monumental day in the course of the pandemic.”

The CDC’s recommendation applies universally to 5- to 11-year-olds, regardless of whether they’ve had a previous coronavirus infection or have an underlying medical condition that would put them at heightened risk for a serious case of COVID-19. “As a mother, I urge parents with questions to speak to their local pharmacist, their school nurse, or their pediatrician to learn more about vaccines and the importance to get their children vaccinated,” Walensky stated.

The shots will not be available in California until they have been cleared by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. This is a group of public health experts representing California, Nevada and Oregon. This might take another day. The CDC’s action was taken just hours after a panel made full endorsement of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for young children. After briefings that cast the vaccine as more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in 5- to 11-year-olds, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted unanimously to recommend its use in all children in that age group.

” Based on our expertise, the information we have, and the enthusiasm of all of us,” stated Dr. Beth Bell ,, a professor of global medicine at the University of Washington.

Several members of the panel indicated that they are eager to get their children vaccinated after the votes were in.

“I am going to take my child to get this,” said Veronica McNally, an attorney in West Bloomfield, Mich.

Dr. Sarah S. Long, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Drexel University, said the CDC action makes three of her nine grandchildren eligible for the vaccine. She noted that her youngest grandchild would be the first to get the vaccine by next week.

“I support this recommendation to the fullest extent as an’should’, not a “maybe” — for all children of this age group,” she said. While children are less likely to get seriously ill from a virus infection than adults, this pandemic has had a devastating impact on this age group.

Theirs is the group most likely to be hospitalized with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, in which the immune system responds to a SARS-CoV-2 infection by attacking healthy tissue. By early October, a total of 2,316 elementary-school-age kids in the U.S. had been hospitalized with MIS-C.

In all, 8,300 5- to 11-year-olds have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 94 have died, according to the CDC. According to the CDC, approximately two-thirds (or nearly all) of those who have been admitted to hospital were suffering from a chronic condition such as heart disease, asthma, or compromised immunity. But one-third were entirely healthy before their bout with severe COVID-19. After a difficult school year that was marked by distance learning, modified classroom protocols and difficult school assignments, things got worse. During a six-week period between late June and mid-August, as the Delta variant established itself across the U.S., COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased five-fold.

Even with mild infections, at most 7% of children this age appear to have long COVID. This mysterious condition, which can cause symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, muscle aches and breathing problems, that can last for months, is a mystery. Children can transmit the virus even if they don’t have symptoms. The CDC estimates that if recent transmission trends continue, the vaccination of just nine children in this age group would prevent one new infection, and vaccinating 2,213 would spare one child from hospitalization. Tuesday’s vote by the CDC advisory panel dismissed concerns about vaccine-related myocarditis. This is an inflammation of the heart muscle. The condition is rare — it has been detected in 877 U.S. residents younger than 30 who received the Pfizer vaccine or a similar one made by Moderna, out of 86 million doses administered to people in that age group. Most cases are resolved with rest and over-the-counter medication.

Last week, however, concerns over how this rare vaccine side effect would affect a cohort of prepubescent children caused several advisors to the Food and Drug Administration to suggest that a more limited rollout of the vaccine would be a safer bet.

Pfizer’s clinical trials in 5- to 11-year-olds picked up plenty of cases of fatigue, headache and sore arms. But they did not detect signs of myocarditis — and were unlikely to do so, given their limited size.

Dr. Matthew Oster ,, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said that myocarditis is “less likely” in children younger than in teenagers and young adults after vaccination. He said that “classic” myocarditis is a condition that can develop after an infection. However, it is rare to see in prepubescents. This suggests hormonal changes could play a part.

Irrespective of a patient’s age or gender, Oster added, “getting COVID is much riskier to the heart” than getting vaccinated to prevent it. When asked if the vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech was worth the risks to young children, Oster answered unambiguously.

” In my opinion, yes,” Oster stated.

As the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine starts to enter doctors’ offices and pharmacies and other healthcare facilities, the FDA and CDC will set up monitoring systems to monitor for any increase in myocarditis among newly vaccinated children. Several CDC advisors stated that they are reassured by the evolving views of myocarditis and the federal government’s vigilance when tracking it. “We understand that people have legitimate worries, and they have many questions,” Bell stated. She encouraged those with lingering doubts to discuss the issues with their pediatricians or other trusted advisors and “do what they need to do to feel comfortable with their decisions.”

In a survey conducted in September for the CDC, 35% of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds said they would “definitely” get their child vaccinated once the shots were available, and 26% said they would “probably” do so.

Among parents who were unsure, 45% expressed concerns about long-term side effects, 28% were worried about cardiac side effects in particular, and roughly 25% said they simply don’t trust COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, 1 in 10 said they did not view COVID-19 as a threat.

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