Children under the age of five could receive the Covid-19 vaccine within days of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) giving the green light to roll out the shots.
In a meeting on Saturday, CDC’s independent panel of advisors voted to approve the Pfizer vaccine for children ages six months to four years and the Moderna vaccine for children ages six months to five years.
Less than two hours later, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gave her official signature, allowing states to start holding young children in their arms starting early next week.
“Together, with science leading the way, we have taken another significant step forward in our nations’ fight against COVID-19,” she said in a statement.
“We know that millions of parents and caregivers would like to have their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can.”
The Pfizer vaccine is given in three doses, with the second dose given three weeks after the first and the third at least eight weeks after the second.
The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose vaccine, with the second given four weeks after the first.
CDC advisers discussed the effectiveness of the two vaccines in children as young as six months old in an hour-long meeting Saturday morning, before voting unanimously for their approval.
The historic decision was celebrated by CDC officials, finally giving parents the opportunity to vaccinate their young children against the pandemic for two years.
dr. Sarah Long, a pediatrician at St Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and CDC committee member, urged parents to have their children vaccinated “to save their lives.”
“We want to say today that if you’re not going to vaccinate your kids, we think that’s a misplaced concern and you should vaccinate your kids to save their lives,” she said.
The vote came after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the two vaccines for children under five on Friday.
President Joe Biden praised the FDA’s decision, describing it as a “huge relief” for parents across the country.
“Today is a day of tremendous relief for parents and families across America,” he said.
“We are the first country to protect our youngest children with COVID-19 vaccines and provide safe and highly effective mRNA doses to children as young as six months old.”
Mr Biden said parents could schedule vaccinations for their children as early as next week, with shipments beginning Friday following the FDA’s announcement.
The first appointments will likely be on Tuesday as pediatricians’ offices are likely to be closed on Sunday and Monday due to the June federal holiday.
All 50 states, except Florida, had ordered the vaccines for children under five pending approval.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defended his refusal to do so, claiming the federal procurement process is “complicated.”
He also argued that “media hysteria” and “misinformation” have “feared” parents that their children are contracting Covid-19.
The White House has condemned the state’s decision.
Although young children are at less risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19 than adults, 202 children aged six months to four years have died from the virus, data from the CDC shows.