US panel approves Covid jabs for infants and toddlers
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines just need final CDC green light and can be rolled out later in June
Covid-19 vaccines for infants and toddlers from Moderna and Pfizer won support from a panel of US health advisers, a crucial step in making the shots available to children under five.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory committee on immunisation practices voted 12-0 to recommend Pfizer’s three-dose vaccine for youngsters ages six months to four years. They also voted 12-0 to recommend Moderna’s two-dose vaccine for children six months to five years. CDC director Rochelle Walensky has the final say on making the advice official, which will allow the shots to finally go into arms.
Children under five are the last remaining age group that hasn’t been able to get vaccinated. The CDC panel’s endorsement is welcome news to many parents and caregivers who have been eager to give their youngsters some form of protection since vaccines became available more than a year-and-a-half ago.
However, the rate of vaccination for older children suggests that uptake is likely to be limited for toddlers. Only 29% of American children ages five to 11 have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, suggesting that some parents are hesitant or less motivated to inoculate their children.
During the meeting, CDC epidemic intelligence service officer Sara Oliver said the agency is trying to tackle this issue by making sure that information on the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines is available for parents. For example, the agency will host clinician education calls and parent webinars as well as publish educational materials on social media.
“Making sure that parents feel that they have the appropriate information to make an informed decision about this is critically important,” Oliver said.
Children are less likely than adults to experience the worst outcomes of Covid-19 and those under age five account for about 440 of more than 1-million related US deaths. Still, health officials warn, the rate of hospitalisation and death for children, particularly during the Omicron wave, has been concerning.
Data presented during Saturday’s meeting showed that since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 2-million Covid-19 cases, 20,000 hospitalisations and 200 deaths among US children ages six months to four years.
“We really want to get these children vaccinated, because we know vaccinations prevent infection, but to a greater extent prevent severe disease,” Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s medical adviser, said on Thursday in a Senate hearing.
Moderna’s two-dose vaccine was 51% effective at preventing cases of Covid-19 for those under two years and 37% effective for those ages two to five, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said. Common side effects of Moderna’s shot include pain, injection site swelling and fever, the agency said. For Pfizer’s, the most common side effects include irritability, decreased appetite and fever.
Parents and doctors may prefer Moderna’s because of its higher efficacy after two doses, Cowen analyst Tyler van Buren said in a note. Moderna’s vaccine contains a higher dose of mRNA than Pfizer’s.
The US government has already secured a supply of 10-million doses from Pfizer and Moderna to vaccinate under-fives as soon as the CDC gives the green light. The FDA authorised them for emergency use early on Friday. The vaccines are expected to be rolled out as early as June 21, the Biden administration said earlier this month.
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