Coronavirus

US FDA opens way to COVID vaccines for children under five

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The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five and under, opening the door to vaccinating millions of the country’s youngest children.

The agency authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six months to four years and Moderna Inc’s shot for those six months to 17 years. Pfizer’s is already authorized for those over the age of five.

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While many parents in the United States are eager to vaccinate their children, it is unclear how strong demand will be for the shots. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for children aged five to 11 in October, but only about 29 percent of that group is so far fully vaccinated, federal data shows.

The vaccines could be rolled out to the under-five age groups as early as next week, White House officials have said, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to make its recommendations on how the shots should be administered before the vaccination campaign can begin in earnest.

A panel of outside advisers began meeting on Friday to consider a recommendation to the CDC on the shots for those under five years old and will vote on Saturday.

CVS Health Corp, Walmart Inc and Rite Aid Corp plan to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to young children in the United States if they are authorized by authorities, the companies said on Thursday.

“Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement.

Public health officials and experts say that even though a large portion of small children were infected during the winter surge due to the omicron variant of the coronavirus, natural immunity wanes over time and vaccinations should help prevent hospitalizations and deaths when cases rise again.

The CDC advisers will meet again next week to consider whether to back use of Moderna for older children, aged 6-17.

Moderna shares rose one percent while Pfizer shares were down one percent in morning trading.

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