Coronavirus: CDC approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Monday approved a lower-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11.

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Update 8:05 p.m. EDT Nov. 2: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed Monday night that children ages 5 to 11 can receive a lower-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech to protect against the virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already authorized the shots for children in the age range, using doses of only one-third the strength administered to teens and adults, The Associated Press reported.

Walensky’s announcement came only hours after an advisory panel unanimously decided Pfizer’s shots should be opened to the 28 million youngsters in that age group.

Update 5:04 p.m. EDT Nov. 2: The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 14-0 to recommend using the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for young children under an emergency use authorization previously issued by the Food and Drug Administration.

The recommendation will next go to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to either reject or accept the committee’s decision. Typically, the CDC endorses recommendations made by its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

At a news conference Monday, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients reiterated that the White House has secured enough vaccine doses to vaccine 28 million children between the ages of 5 and 11.

“While vaccinations may start later this week, the program will still be ramping up to its full strength, with millions more doses packed, shipped, and delivered, and thousands of additional sites coming online each day,” he said. “So, starting the week of Nov. 8, the kids’ vaccination program will be fully up and running. Parents will be able to schedule appointments at convenient sites they know and trust to get their kids vaccinated.”

>> Related: White House: COVID-19 vaccination program for 5- to 11-year-olds to be up and running next week

Original report: According to the CDC website, the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet beginning at 11 a.m. to discuss the lower-dose vaccine’s use in children ages 5 to 11. Following the vote, which is scheduled for 4:15 p.m., CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will consider the committee’s recommendations and decide whether to endorse them.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday that if the shots are approved, distribution of the child-sized doses should be fully up and running starting next week, Reuters reported.

>> Related: White House releases plan to vaccinate 28M children

Tuesday’s meeting comes just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the vaccine’s use in elementary-age children.

Earlier this month, Pfizer and BioNTech submitted data to the FDA showing that their vaccine is more than 90% effective at protecting young children from symptomatic infection, according to The Associated Press. In the companies’ study, 2,263 children ages 5 to 11 received either two 10-microgram doses of the vaccine or a placebo administered 21 days apart, the AP reported. The children’s doses, which were one-third the size of the 30-microgram shots approved for adults, were nearly 91% effective, according to the data. The vaccine appeared to be safe for children, as well, the companies said.

>> Related: FDA gives OK for low-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, about 27% of parents surveyed plan to get their kids vaccinated quickly, while 33% said they would take a “wait and see” approach. Meanwhile, 30% said they would “definitely not” vaccinate their children, while another 5% said they’d only vaccinate their kids if required.

As of Monday, about 66.8% of people in the U.S. had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 58% were fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

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