Although COVID vaccines and boosters have been made widely available, a large demographic has not been eligible for this critical protection from the virus until now: young children. However, on Wednesday, June 15, a unanimous vote was passed by an FDA panel to overcome this roadblock.
NBC reports that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccine & Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted to authorize the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for youngest children. Each vote tally was the same, 21-0. The Moderna vaccine can be given to children who are at least six months old and up to five years old. The Pfizer vaccine can be administered to children no older than four.
This vote is not the final stamp of approval to vaccinate the youngest Americans but is expected to fast-track full FDA approval for the age group by Tuesday, June 21. The decision will go back to the FDA, which will likely grant emergency use of the vaccine in this age group over the next few days. A CDC vote is expected on Friday and Saturday over the endorsement of the shot. If the vote is a “yes,” the last step would be the green light from CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
This vote is the culmination of nearly 18 months’ worth of work. The vaccine committee held its first meeting about this COVID defense on December 10, 2020. At the time, the minimum age to receive the Pfizer vaccine was 16. As Wednesday’s vote lowered the minimum age to just six months, nearly every American will soon be eligible to be protected from the COVID virus.
Dr. Ofer Levy of the Boston Children’s Hospital was “very pleased” that our country has reached this critical milestone.
This decision was not made lightly, as there have been passionate comments from both parents who favor and oppose the vaccine. The FDA panel has admitted that clear communication with families will be a crucial component of getting their children vaccinated. Nearly all of the FDA committee members agreed it should be the parents’ decision, not the government’s, on whether or not to get a child vaccinated.
While this age group has generally been spared the most severe effects of COVID, serious illness and death are still tragic possibilities. The recent Omicron surge saw the highest hospitalization rate in children under five since the pandemic began. As of May 28, 2022, COVID has claimed the lives of at least 442 children at this tender age or even younger.