COVID vaccine: CDC advisers recommend Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children under 5

NEW YORK — U.S. health advisers on Saturday recommended COVID-19 vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers — the last group without vaccines.

Advisors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have unanimously decided that coronavirus vaccines should be open to children as young as 6 months old. Final signing was expected later in the day by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

While the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines, the CDC decides who gets them.

The government is preparing for the start of injections early next week, with millions of doses ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics across the country.

About 18 million children will be eligible, but it remains to be seen how many will ultimately receive the vaccines. Less than a third of children aged 5 to 11 have done so since vaccination was opened to them last November.

Here are a few things to know:


Two brands – Pfizer and Moderna – got the green light from the FDA on Friday. The vaccines use the same technology but come in different dose sizes and number of injections for younger people.

Pfizer’s vaccine lasts from 6 months to 4 years. The dose is one tenth of the adult dose and three injections are required. The first two are given three weeks apart and the last at least two months later.

Moderna’s consists of two injections, each representing a quarter of its adult dose, given about four weeks apart for children 6 months to 5 years old. The FDA has also approved a third dose, at least one month after the second injection, for children with immune conditions that make them more susceptible to serious illness.


In studies, young vaccinees have developed anti-virus antibody levels as strong as young adults, suggesting that child-sized doses protect against coronavirus infections.

However, it is difficult to determine exactly how well they work, especially when it comes to the Pfizer vaccine.

Two doses of Moderna appeared to be only about 40% effective in preventing milder infections at a time when the omicron variant was causing most COVID-19-related illness. Pfizer presented study information suggesting the company saw 80% with its three injections. But Pfizer’s data was so limited — and based on such a small number of cases — that experts and federal officials say they don’t believe a reliable estimate yet exists.


Yes, according to CDC advisers. Although COVID-19 has been most dangerous for older people, younger people, including children, can also get very sick.

Hospitalizations jumped during the omicron wave. Since the start of the pandemic, about 480 children under the age of 5 have been counted among the more than one million COVID-19 deaths nationwide, according to federal data.

“It’s worth vaccinating, even if the number of deaths is relatively rare, because those deaths can be prevented through vaccination,” said Dr. Matthew Daley, a Kaiser Permanente Colorado researcher who serves on the advisory board.


One or the other, says Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s chief vaccine officer.

“Whatever vaccine your health care provider, pediatrician has, that’s what I would give my child,” Marks said Friday.

The doses haven’t been tested against each other, so experts say there’s no way to tell if one is better.

One consideration: It takes about three months to complete Pfizer’s three-shot series, but only one month for Moderna’s two-shot. So families looking to protect their children quickly might want Moderna.


Pediatricians, other primary care physicians and children’s hospitals plan to provide the vaccines. Limited pharmacies will offer them for at least some of the under-5 age group.

US officials expect most of the shootings to take place in pediatricians’ offices. Many parents may be more comfortable having their children vaccinated at their regular doctor, said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. He predicted that the pace of vaccination would be much slower than for older populations.

“We’re going to see vaccinations ramping up over weeks and potentially even months,” Jha said.


It is common for small children to receive more than one vaccine during a visit to the doctor.

In studies of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in infants and toddlers, other vaccines were not given at the same time, so there is no data on potential side effects when this occurs.

But no problems have been identified in older children or adults when COVID-19 shots and other vaccines have been given together, and the CDC says it’s safe for young children as well.


It is estimated that around three quarters of children of all ages have been infected at some point. For older people, the CDC still recommended vaccination to reduce the risk of reinfection.

Experts have noted reinfections among previously infected people and say the highest levels of protection occur in those who have been both vaccinated and previously infected.

The CDC said people might consider waiting about three months after an infection to get vaccinated.

Note: The video at the top of this player is from a previous report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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