The first COVID-19 shots for infants and preschoolers have been approved by US medical regulators, paving the way for vaccinations to begin as soon as next week.
The Food and Drug Administration’s action follows its advisory panel’s unanimous recommendation for the shots from Moderna and Pfizer. That means US children under five — roughly 18 million youngsters — are eligible for the shots. The nation’s vaccination campaign began about eighteen months ago with older adults, the hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vaccines will be available to children as young as three-year-old Hudson, seen here with his parents Barry and Ilena Diener at a vaccine trial in New York last November. Credit:AP
There’s one step left: The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends how to use vaccines. Its independent advisers began debating the two-dose Moderna and the three-dose Pfizer vaccines on Friday (Saturday AEST) and will make its recommendation within 24 hours. A final sign-off is expected soon after from CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
At a Senate hearing Thursday, Walensky said her staff was working over the federal holiday weekend “because we understand the urgency of this for American parents”.
For weeks, the Biden administration has been preparing to roll out the vaccines for little kids, with states, tribes, community health centres and pharmacies pre-ordering millions of doses. With FDA’s emergency use authorisation, manufacturers can begin shipping vaccine across the country. The shots are expected to start early next week but it’s not clear how popular they will be.
Without protection for their tots, some families had put off birthday parties, vacations and visits with grandparents.
“Today is a day of huge relief for parents and families across America,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
While young children generally don’t get as sick from COVID-19 as older kids and adults, their hospitalisations surged during the omicron wave and FDA’s advisers determined that benefits from vaccination outweighed the minimal risks. Studies from Moderna and Pfizer showed side effects, including fever and fatigue, were mostly minor.
Pfizer’s toddler jab is one-tenth as strong as the adult one, and is given three times to provide immunity. Credit:Pfizer
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