U.S. FDA opens way to COVID vaccines for children under five

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 and under, opening the door to vaccinating millions of the country’s youngest children.

The agency authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s (PFE.N), COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months to 4 years, and Moderna Inc’s (MRNA.O) shot for those 6 months to 17 years. Pfizer’s is already authorized for those over the age of 5.

A child is administered a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pediatric vaccine, in San Jose, Costa Rica February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Mayela Lopez

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 5 to 11 in October, but only about 29% of that group is so far fully vaccinated, federal data shows.

The vaccines could be rolled out to the under-5 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 its outside advisers is meeting to vote on the recommendations on Friday and Saturday.

“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.

Moderna shares rose over 3% to $125.16, while Pfizer was up nearly 1% at $47.81 in morning trading.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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Source: Reuters