US CDC advisers recommend COVID jabs for young children

CDC director must grant final approval before coronavirus vaccines can be administered to US children aged 5 to 11.

Approximately 28 million US children between the ages of five and 11 will be eligible to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine jab [Shawn Rocco/Duke University/Handout via Reuters]

An advisory panel to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has unanimously backed administering coronavirus vaccines to children aged five to 11, one of the last key steps ahead of final approval for the age cohort.

Jabs of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be administered to children in the age bracket as early as Wednesday, pending expected final approval from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

The CDC advisory panel on Tuesday said the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of the vaccine.

At the outset of the meeting, Walenksy said paediatric hospitalisations for COVID-19 had surged during the recent wave of the pandemic in the United States, which saw an uptick in infections linked to the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.

Walensky said the risk from the coronavirus “is too high and too devastating to our children and far higher than for many other diseases for which we vaccinate children”.

School closures also have had detrimental social and mental health impacts on children, she added, saying that “paediatric vaccination has the power to help us change all of that”.

The CDC panel’s recommendation comes just days after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorisation for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be administered to children aged five to 11.

Approximately 28 million children across the US, many of whom are back in school for in-person learning, will be eligible to receive jabs.

On Monday, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said the vaccination programme for the age bracket would be “running at full strength” as of next week, as doses were being shipped nationwide.

Children in the age group will be able to get Pfizer-BioNTech jabs at paediatricians’ offices, medical clinics, pharmacies and community health centres.

“We have been planning and preparing for this moment,” Zients told reporters.

“There’s plenty of supply of the Pfizer vaccine and we look forward to parents having the opportunity to vaccinate their kids,” he added.

Many US children are back in school for in-person learning [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

There have been 8,300 COVID-19 hospitalisations of children aged five to 11 in the US since the pandemic began, according to the CDC.

Those figures are comparatively low compared with the 45.8 million cases and more than 745,000 deaths recorded overall across the country, and severe COVID-19 is rarer in children than adults, although far from non-existent.

Only a few other countries, including China, Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, have so far cleared COVID-19 vaccines for children in the five-to-11 age group and younger.

Source: News Agencies