In the final step, the CDC director signs the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 and up

Another 28 million Americans are able to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after the CDC officially recommended the Pfizer shot to 5- to 11-year-olds Tuesday night.

“Together with the science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus that causes COVID-19. We know that millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated, and with this decision we have now recommended that around 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine, “said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a statement.

A team of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend the Pfizer vaccine to children aged 5-11, marking one of the final fields in the approval process, and Walensky’s final recommendation on Tuesday night. completed the process. .

Shots can be administered right away, but it is not expected to get into high gear until Nov. 8, when the White House says Pfizer’s pediatric vaccines will be more available nationwide.

About 15 million doses are expected to be dispensed over the next week. The majority, around 10 million, will be available at pediatrician offices, pediatric hospitals, community centers and mass vaccination sites. About 5 million doses will go to pharmacies.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said: “It will allow parents to end months of anxiety concerns about their children, and reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others. It is a major step forward for our nation in our fight for to defeat the virus. “

Many parents are eager to protect their children, as the delta increase over the summer led to increased cases and hospitalizations among children. Although the variant is no longer lethal, it is more transmissible – and because children are unvaccinated, the variant increased through schools and camps.

The latest data from Pfizer’s clinical trials showed that the vaccine for children aged 5-11 was almost 91% effective against symptomatic disease.

For children, the vaccine will be given in a smaller, one-third dose.

The vaccine also seems safe. The company says that none of the children in clinical trials experienced a rare myocarditis side effect known as myocarditis, which has been associated with the mRNA vaccines in very rare cases, mostly among young men.

The CDC’s expert in myocarditis, Dr. Matt Oster, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said unequivocally at Tuesday’s meeting that he believes the benefits of the vaccine for 5-11-year-olds outweigh the potential risks of vaccine-related myocarditis.

“The bottom line is getting COVID, I think it’s a lot more risky for the heart than getting this vaccine, no matter what age or gender you are,” Oster told the committee.

Meanwhile, the risk of not being vaccinated is far greater than the rare and mostly mild vaccine side effects seen in some young people, said the CDC’s Dr. Sarah Oliver.

For every million pediatric vaccinations, more than 18,500 COVID cases and 80 admissions could be prevented, Oliver estimated, using a model based on cases through the pandemic so far. If the cases returned to the highest seen under the delta variant, over 58,200 COVID cases and over 220 admissions could be prevented.

“There could also be possible infection prevention and greater confidence in a safer return to school and social interactions,” Oliver said. “A broad use of an effective vaccine would reduce the public health burden of COVID in children aged five to 11 years.”

Other CDC committee members agreed.

“I think the data support that we have one more vaccine that saves children’s lives and that we should be very sure to use it to the maximum,” said Dr. Sarah Long, Member of the CDC Committee and Professor of Pediatrics at Drexel University.

The approval process began last week when a panel of experts at the Food and Drug Administration reviewed all efficacy and safety data and then voted almost unanimously to approve the vaccine. On Friday, the vaccine was approved by FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock, who allowed the process to move over to the CDC for the final steps before shots could be administered.

Whether parents will embrace the vaccine for their children remains a question. In an October poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about a third of parents with children ages 5-11 were willing to vaccinate their children right away, while another third wanted to “wait and see.” The figures represented a slight increase in vaccine acceptance among parents of children of primary school age since July, but they have remained stable since September.

Woodcock told reporters Friday that she hoped parents would quickly see the benefits.

“We certainly hope that as people see children being vaccinated and protected, that they can participate in activities without worry, more and more people will get their children vaccinated,” she said.

And she stressed the urgency of preventing the conditions that can come with COVID diagnoses in children.

“As a parent, if I had young children in this age group, I would get them vaccinated now. I would not take the risk that they would be one of those who would develop long-term COVID, which would develop multi-system inflammatory. syndrome or must be hospitalized because of the virus, “Woodcock said.

ABC News’ Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.


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