CDC recommends Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for young children

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Pediatricians are preparing to administer the nation’s first coronavirus vaccines for children under 5 in coming days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off Saturday on giving the shots to as many as 19 million children across the United States.

The endorsement from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to vaccinate all children as young as 6 months old against the virus came less than two hours after the agency’s vaccine advisory panel unanimously recommended two vaccines — one by Moderna and the other by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.

“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nations fight against COVID-19,” Walensky said in a statement. “We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can.”

Doses began shipping Friday following the authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, which found both vaccines to be safe and effective.

The conclusion of this long, deliberate regulatory process, with the final signature from Walensky coming at the start of the busy summer travel season, will be a welcome relief for families who have seen the lack of vaccination among children as a major obstacle to intergenerational gatherings. Health officials plan to ramp up public campaigns to encourage vaccination as a still-underutilized weapon against the ongoing pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration advisors have recommended coronavirus vaccines for children younger than 5. (Video: Jackson Barton, John Farrell/The Washington Post)

Pediatricians who placed orders two weeks ago are expecting doses to arrive in the coming days. Some eager parents are scouring for appointments for toddlers who may have never seen the inside of a grocery store during childhoods severely limited by fear of covid-19 infection. The Biden administration plans to set up pop-up clinics at children’s museums and libraries.

“This is an opportunity which one doesn’t get very often to participate in preventing the death of children, of young children,” said panel member Beth Bell, a global health professor at the University of Washington.

Oliver Brooks, chief medical officer at Watts Healthcare Corp. who also serves on the panel, said parents and families need to be prepared for future coronavirus variants because the virus is not going to disappear. “We don’t know what’s coming,” Brooks said. “But I feel comfortable in saying that vaccinating will be a benefit…. We’ve taken a major step forward today.”

The advisory panel voted 12-to-0 to recommend the vaccines; three members were absent.

Parents, in consultation with pediatricians, will have to make a decision about which vaccine to obtain. They can consult the website,, for pharmacies and health care providers that have the vaccine. Pharmacies are allowed to administer the vaccines to children who are at least 3 years old.

The two newly approved vaccines employ different dosages, a different number of shots and different intervals between shots. Regulators are not favoring one over the other because of differences in the way the clinical trials were conducted, said CDC official Sara Oliver.

Either vaccine is better than no vaccine, Oliver told the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices during its two-day meeting concluding Saturday.

Panel members raised many concerns they said they are fielding from pediatricians and families, including whether children who were previously infected with the coronavirus should get the shots.

Roughly three out of four children carry antibodies showing that they have already been infected at least once with the coronavirus, according to research published earlier this year. The CDC emphasized that children who have had the virus…

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