COVID-19 immunization in young kids begins following CDC nod

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine advisory group on Saturday unanimously recommended Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old, which was quickly accepted by the CDC.

The development was followed rapidly by vaccine clinic announcements from some states and guidance from others on how parents can find doses from providers who have doses from the first wave federal shipments.

Much of the COVID-19 vaccine administration for the youngest age is predicted to occur in doctor's offices, similar to that for other vaccines. The vaccines will also be available through some pharmacies and local health departments.

ACIP vote, CDC endorsement were final hurdles

After the vote, in a statement accepting the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said the recommendation expands immunization to about 20 million more kids and means that all Americans ages 6 months and up are now eligible.

She urged all children, including ones who have already had COVID-19, to be vaccinated.

"We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today's decision, they can," Walensky said. "I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated."

After ACIP's vote, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its recommendations for COVID-19 vaccinations, including a strong recommendation that children in the youngest age-group receive it.

In a statement, AAP President Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, said pediatricians should not let up in their efforts to ensure that all families benefit from COVID-19 protection. As of Jun 8, more than 23 million kids ages 5 to 17 have received two doses, but another 26 million haven't yet received any doses.

Though both vaccines are mRNA products, they vary by dose, amount of antigen, timing, and age indication. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine—indicated for kids ages 6 months through 4 years—requires three 3-microgram doses, the first two given 21 days apart, and the third given 2 months after the second. Meanwhile, Moderna is indicated for kids ages 6 months through 5 years and is given as two 25-microgram doses, 28 days apart.

During the public comment portion of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory group hearings last week, some parents said the Moderna series would be easier to complete before the next school year begins. Experts said, however, that a booster shot might be needed at some point.

States offer vaccine clinics, provider connections

In the wake of FDA and CDC sign-offs, a number of states have announced vaccine clinics or have issued guidance for parents on how to find a vaccine appointment for their young children.

For example, the Southern Nevada Health District, which includes the Las Vegas area, announced yesterday that it will begin offering vaccine clinics on Jun 22, starting with the Pfizer vaccine. And the Minnesota Department of Health yesterday announced that it was booking appointments for a state-run vaccination site at the Mall of America, also starting with Pfizer.

The Louisiana Department of Health said pediatric deliveries of the vaccine to doctor's offices will begin this week, and it published a list of healthcare providers who have ordered it. The Utah Department of Health said its health providers have ordered 32,300 doses and said local health departments, select pharmacies, and doctor's offices will begin offering vaccination to young children over the next several days to weeks.

Florida was the only state that didn't allow providers to preorder vaccine doses for the age-group from the federal government. Flowing criticism from medical professionals and the federal government, however, the state is now allowing pediatricians, children's hospitals, and other doctors to order COVID-19 vaccine, according to the New York Times. Florida officials said the state doesn't recommend that healthy children receive the vaccine.

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