The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday approved a unanimous recommendation from an advisory panel to allow children ages 5 to 11 to get a coronavirus vaccine — a monumental development in the U.S.’s inoculation efforts with 28 million kids now eligible for the shot.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who heads the CDC, signed off on the recommendation by the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, immediately making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to those children.
Walensky’s authorization allows health care providers, pharmacies and clinicians to administer coronavirus vaccine shots to that age group.
Officials said those shots would become available as early as Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration had previously authorized a two-shot regimen for the age group, with each dose containing one-third of that used for those 12 and older.
White House officials have determined that there’s enough of the Pfizer vaccine for all 28 million children in America who are between the age of 5 and 11.
Pfizer officials said they placed orders for the doses last month, and they’ve already begun the process of preparing and packing the vaccines.
Walensky had urged regulators to consider all variables.
“We have been asking when we will be able to expand this protection to our younger children,” Walensky told the advisory panel Tuesday during its meeting. “As you review the data today, it will be key to keep in mind the specific risks to children from this virus and the pandemic, and to put that risk into the context of other vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Walensky added that committee members should recognize that children have historically received vaccinations against diseases such chickenpox, which reportedly kill far fewer children and put far fewer of them into the hospital than COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
“As you will all be aware, in this most recent Delta [variant] wave, we saw pediatric admission rates higher than they had in any previous wave of the pandemic, reaching a rate of 25 hospitalizations per 100,000 per year in children between the ages of 5 to 11,” Walensky said.