Vaccinations against Covid-19 for children under 5 begin Tuesday across the United States, marking a milestone in the nation’s fight against the disease.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded emergency use authorizations for Moderna’s vaccine to include children 6 months to 17 years old and Pfizer/BioNTech for children 6 months to 4 years old. .
Then on Saturday, the director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, approved Covid-19 vaccinations for children under 5, paving the way for the administration of vaccinations in this group. of age.
About 17 million children under the age of 5 are now eligible for Covid-19 vaccines.
“It’s a big day. We’ve been waiting a long time for children to have access to the vaccine. We now have all age groups, 6 months and older, in the country who are now eligible to get protection from the Covid vaccine. -19. And I’ll tell you as a father of a 4-year-old, it’s a big deal for my family as well,” US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Tuesday morning.
Under FDA clearance, the Moderna vaccine can be given in a two-dose primary series, with doses given four weeks apart, at 25 micrograms each dose, to infants and children 6 months to 5 years old.
Although the FDA has authorized Moderna’s vaccine for children ages 6 to 17, the CDC has not yet recommended it for this age group, so these vaccines cannot yet be given. FDA clearance would allow children ages 6 to 11 to receive doses of 50 micrograms each. For people aged 12 and over, it would be given in doses of 100 micrograms.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can now be given as a three-dose primary series, at 3 micrograms per dose, for use in infants and children 6 months to 4 years of age. The vaccine is given as a primary series in two doses at 10 micrograms per dose for children aged 5 to 11 years and at 30 micrograms per dose for adolescents and adults aged 12 years and over.
Completing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine series is a longer process, as the first two doses are given three weeks apart, and then the third dose is given eight weeks later.
Dr. Jeannette Lee of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who serves on the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, expressed concern that children are not completing all three doses.
“Three doses will definitely be beneficial. I’m very concerned that a lot of these kids won’t get a third dose,” Lee said. “My concern is that you have to get all three doses to really get what you need.”
For children who could turn 4-5 years old at any time during their Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine series, the CDC recommends two options. The child can complete the primary two-dose series allowed for children ages 5 to 11, or they can complete the three-dose series for younger children, but each of doses 2 and 3 can be either the dose for younger children or children aged 5 to 11.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biologics Advisory Committee determined that the benefits of both vaccines outweigh the risks and noted that the vaccines were “well tolerated” among children who received them during clinical tests.
According to clinical trial data, common side effects of both vaccines include pain at the injection site, headache, fever, chills and fatigue. The vaccines appeared to elicit similar immune responses in children as seen in adults.
Pediatricians’ offices and pharmacies are the main sites where young children can get vaccinated.
“We know that parents will want to have their children vaccinated in pediatricians’ offices. Some people will go to a pharmacy, some people will go to a children’s hospital or some kind of community health center,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said Monday on CBS.
“But at the end of the day, I think a majority of parents will want to have their child vaccinated at their pediatrician’s office,” Jha said. “So many pediatricians are going to offer the vaccine.”
As for pharmacies offering these childhood vaccines, CVS and Walgreens have announced plans to supply vaccines.
CVS will begin administering Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines to children under the age of five on Tuesday, a communications representative told CNN.
“We will begin administering the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to eligible children ages 18 months to four years at our 1,100 MinuteClinic sites beginning Tuesday,” said Matt Blanchette, senior director of retail communications at CVS Pharmacy, to CNN in an email. .
“MinuteClinic is located in select CVS Pharmacy stores in 35 states and Washington, DC,” Blanchette said. Appointments will be available on a rolling basis depending on vaccine supply.
Blanchette said children over the age of 5 will still be able to access Covid-19 vaccines at CVS pharmacies.
On Saturday, Walgreens announced in a press release that appointments for vaccinations for young children will be available starting June 25. Walgreens will vaccinate children 3 and older at “selected” locations, and appointments can be scheduled online.
Hy-Vee pharmacies will have Covid-19 vaccines available for children under 5 once doses become available, a communications representative told CNN on Monday.
“Hy-Vee expects to receive its newly approved age group allocations in the coming days,” Tina Potthoff, senior vice president of communications, wrote in an email.
“As soon as we receive the vaccine and our appointment scheduler is open for these age groups, we will post an update on our COVID-19 vaccine homepage, post on our store Facebook pages Hy-Vee and will contact media in our eight-state region to let them know which of our pediatric centers are accepting appointments.
Due to federal regulations, she wrote, Hy-Vee will only provide vaccines to children ages 3 and older.
“Under the PREP Act, retail pharmacies, including Hy-Vee pharmacies, are only permitted to administer vaccines to patients ages 3 and older,” Potthoff wrote in the email. “Patients under 3 years of age should see their pediatrician or health care provider about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.”