U.S. health officials on Saturday recommended Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines for toddlers, with the U.S. becoming the first country to make shots of both vaccines available to children. Messenger RNA possible from 6 months of age.
On Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already authorized them as an emergency for these young children – who could not so far not be vaccinated before they are 5 years old.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is the nation's top health agency, still had to recommend them before the injections could begin, which they have now.
“ We know that millions of parents […] want to vaccinate their young children, and with today's decision, they can,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky in a statement.
The U.S. government has made several million of these children's doses available to states and had already begun shipping them across the country as soon as FDA clearance was issued.
Joe Biden promised that parents could start making appointments as early as next week for the first injections and that vaccines would be available in thousands of places, including pharmacies and hospitals.
Moderna's vaccine, in two doses given one month apart, is now available for children aged six months to 5 years at a reduced dosage of 25 micrograms (compared to 50 micrograms for 6-11 year olds and 100 micrograms for 12-17 years old, like adults).
For its part, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for children aged six months to 4 years at the rate of 3 micrograms per injection, i.e. a tenth of the dosage used for adults.
Main difference: it will have to be done from the outset in three doses – the first two at three week intervals and the third to be administered eight weeks after the second. Children receiving it will therefore not be optimally protected for several months.
But its side effects seemed, during clinical trials, to be less strong than after the Moderna vaccine. About a quarter of young children given Moderna developed a fever, especially after the second dose. But it usually subsided after a day.
There are about 20 million children under the age of 5 in the United States.
Although the youngest are less vulnerable to COVID-19, some 480 children in this age group have nevertheless died in the country. They can also develop long-term COVID or suffer from pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a serious condition.
Pfizer said it wants to file an application for authorization for this age group “in early July” with the European Medicines Agency.