FRIDAY, June 24, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Friday signed off on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 6 through 17.
It's the final step to making the shots available to this age group. Pfizer's two-dose COVID vaccine has already gained approval for use in older children.
"Vaccinating this age group can provide greater confidence to families that their children and adolescents participating in child care, school and other activities will have less risk for serious COVID-19 illness," Walensky said in an agency news release.
Her announcement came a day after an expert CDC panel voted unanimously to recommend use of the Moderna vaccine in kids aged 6 to 17.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) endorsed the shots after hearing the latest evidence on the vaccine's effectiveness, along with safety data on a rare heart condition known as myocarditis that is sometimes seen after vaccination with the mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer.
"There is a risk of myocarditis/pericarditis after both messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccines, [but] most cases have prompt improvement in symptoms. A follow-up survey suggests most fully recovered from myocarditis," Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, an associate professor of medicine from Vanderbilt University, said during the panel's discussion of the vaccine. She added that myocarditis after vaccination has been generally mild compared to those who developed the condition after getting sick with COVID-19, CNN reported.
Overall, company data showed that most children got the vaccine without incident.
"In general, most adverse events reported after COVID vaccines are mild and transient events like injection site and systemic reactions," said Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the H1N1 Vaccine Task Force at the CDC, CNN reported. "We will continue to monitor the safety of these vaccines and we will continue to work with partners, both within the federal government and with health care providers and provider organizations to better understand these types of adverse events."
This CDC panel's vote follows the CDC's approval last Saturday of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children younger than 5.
"This expands eligibility for vaccination to nearly 20 million additional children and means that all Americans ages 6 months and older are now eligible for vaccination," the agency said in a news release after the Saturday approval.
"Distribution of pediatric vaccinations for these younger children has started across the country, and will be available at thousands of pediatric practices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, local health departments, clinics, and other locations this week," the CDC continued. "Children in this younger age group can be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is available (either Moderna or Pfizer). Parents can reach out to their doctor, nurse, local pharmacy or health department, or visit vaccines.gov to see where vaccines for children are available."
The CDC's move on the country's youngest children followed similar action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last Friday.
The approvals come not a moment too soon: More than two years into the pandemic, children younger than 5 still had no vaccine available to them.
"Many parents, caregivers and clinicians have been waiting for a vaccine for younger children and this action will help protect those down to 6 months of age. As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in an agency news release. "Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data."
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on COVID vaccines for kids.
SOURCES: CNN; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, June 18, 2022; The New York Times; Associated Press; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, June 17, 2022