The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years, clearing the way for pediatricians and pharmacies to begin vaccinating children soon.
The decision follows last week’s approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration for that age group and is the last step in a process that began Oct. 7, following the conclusion of Pfizer’s clinical trial.
Roughly 28 million children are eligible to get vaccinated in the U.S.
“We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who gave the final go-ahead, said in a statement. “As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.”
Vaccinations for children can begin as soon as Wednesday. President Joe Biden’s administration began packaging and shipping millions of pediatric doses earlier this week in anticipation of Tuesday’s authorization.
A CDC advisory panel had unanimously recommended authorizing the pediatric vaccine earlier Tuesday.
Like the adult version, Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine is a two-dose regimen administered three weeks apart. It is also reported to have similar side effects, including fatigue, headache, muscle pain and chills.
In a study of 3,100 children ages 5 to 11 who received the vaccine, none reported serious side effects.
Children younger than 5 will have to wait a bit longer until they’re eligible to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said he expects data from trial results for kids 2 to 4 years old by the end of the year, after which the federal approval process can begin.