U.S. health officials on Tuesday gave the final signoff to Pfizer’s kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opens a major expansion of the nation’s vaccination campaign to children as young as 5.
The Food and Drug Administration already authorized the shots for children ages 5 to 11 — doses just a third of the amount given to teens and adults. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally recommends who should receive FDA-cleared vaccines.
The announcement by CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky came only hours after an advisory panel unanimously decided Pfizer’s shots should be opened to the 28 million youngsters in that age group.
The decision marks the first opportunity for Americans under 12 to get the powerful protection of any COVID-19 vaccine.
“As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated,” Walensky said Tuesday night, in a statement. Click on this link to watch a short video of vaccine for children https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEZV-JEDwdY&list=PLbpi6ZahtOH7WFEYxB4kUB2QwsshALAwy&index=5
In remarks earlier in the day, she said while the risk of severe disease and death is lower in young children than adults, it is real — and that COVID-19 has had a profound social, mental health and educational impact on youngsters, including widening disparities in learning.
The American Academy of Pediatrics welcomed the decision as its members get ready to start the first injections into little arms, which the CDC said could begin “as soon as possible.” The 5- to 11-year-olds will receive two low doses, three weeks apart, of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech — the same schedule as everyone else, but using a smaller needle.
Pfizer over the weekend began shipping millions of the pediatric shots to states, doctors’ offices and pharmacies — in orange caps, to avoid mix-ups with purple-capped vials of adult vaccine.
Many parents have clamored for vaccine protection for youngsters so they can resume normal childhood activities without risking their own health — or fear bringing the virus home to a more vulnerable family member. But CDC’s advisers said they recognize many parents also have questions, and may be fearful of the vaccine because of rampant misinformation.
Some of CDC’s advisers said for some parents, deciding to get their children vaccinated may hinge on that small but scary risk.
“The risk of some sort of bad heart involvement is much higher if you get COVID than if you get this vaccine,” Dr. Matthew Oster, a pediatric cardiologist at Emory University, told the panel. “COVID is much riskier to the heart.”
What about younger children? Pfizer is testing shots for babies and preschoolers and expects data around the end of the year. The similarly made Moderna vaccine also is being studied with young children. But the FDA still hasn’t cleared its use in teens, and the company is delaying its application for younger children pending that review.
Are children ages 5 to 17 required to get vaccinated?
While vaccination is currently not required for school attendance, vaccination allows children to be in the classroom, participate in after-school activities and sports, and gather with friends more safely. Also,vaccination is increasingly being required in other settings. Many employers now require vaccination, and people age 12 and older must
show proof of vaccination for indoor dining, going to the gym, and other activities in New York City.
Do children need permission to get vaccinated? Do they need insurance, an ID or
Yes. A parent or guardian must give consent. Consent can be given in-person or by phone at the time of the appointment. Some vaccination sites also accept written consent, including all City-run sites. People ages 5 to 15 must be accompanied to the vaccination site by a parent or guardian or another adult caregiver chosen by the parent or guardian.
Bring proof of age, such as an ID or birth certificate if you have one. If not, a parent or guardian can attest to their child’s age. You do not need to share your immigration status or provide a social security number to be vaccinated. Insurance is not required. If you have insurance, it may be billed, but you will not need to pay a copay or other fee.
To find a vaccination site, go to nyc.gov/vaccinefinder or call 877-VAX-4-NYC
(877-829-4692). If you have any questions, talk to your child’s health care
provider or call 212-COVID-19 (212-268-4319)
Please share the information with your family, friends, and networks.