Children as young as five will be offered coronavirus vaccines in the US, after health officials gave the final sign-off to Pfizer’s jab.
Children aged between five and 11 will receive a third of the size of dose given to teens and adults, delivered in two jabs, three weeks apart.
The decision marks the first opportunity for Americans under the age of 12 to have any COVID jab.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already approved the shots for the age group, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formally recommends who should receive FDA-cleared vaccines – which it has now done.
CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky made the announcement just hours after an advisory panel unanimously decided Pfizer’s vaccine should be opened to the 28 million youngsters in that age category.
“As a mum, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their paediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated,” she said in a statement.
US President Joe Biden marked the decision, describing it as a “turning point”.
He said: “It will allow parents to end months of anxious worrying about their kids, and reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others.
“It is a major step forward for our nation in our fight to defeat the virus.”
The CDC said children could start receiving the jabs “as soon as possible”.
Over the weekend, Pfizer began shipping millions of the paediatric doses to states, doctors’ offices and pharmacies, in orange caps to avoid mix-ups with vials of the adult vaccine.
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Pfizer’s study of 2,268 youngsters found the vaccine is nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.
Some children experienced a sore arm, a fever or achiness after having the jab and regulators decided the benefits from vaccination outweighed the potential risks.
In the UK, only those who are 12 and over are being offered the vaccine.
Across the US, there have been more than 8,300 coronavirus-related hospitalisations of children aged between five and 11, with around a third requiring intensive care, according to government data.
The CDC has recorded at least 94 deaths in that age group, with additional reports under investigation.
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