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A healthcare worker administers a dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a child at a pediatrician's office in Bingham Farms, Michigan. Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CDC director Rochelle Walensky endorsed a two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11, marking the final step in the approval process that makes coronavirus vaccines available to younger children as soon as Friday.

Why it matters: Modeling from the panel suggests that vaccinating 5-11-year-olds will reduce transmission of COVID in the U.S. by 8% between November and March 2022.

  • Committee member Sara Oliver said Tuesday vaccinating children would also help weaken the impact of a new variant if one emerges, but would not block its spread.
  • Walensky's approval comes just hours after a key CDC panel unanimously recommended the vaccine for kids.

The big picture: Many parents have eagerly awaited this moment, as the return to in-person schooling this fall was accompanied by a spike in COVID-19 cases among children.

  • "During a 6-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold," per an emailed CDC statement. The CDC noted the virus can result in hospitalizations, deaths and long COVID in children.
  • While children won't be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving, they could be by the Christmas holiday.

Details: The CDC panel's endorsement comes on the heels of the Food and Drug Administration's authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for the age group on Friday.

  • Each of the shots administered to kids 5-11 will be about a third of the size of the adult dose. The doses will be spaced three weeks apart. Children of this age bracket who are immunocompromised may not receive a third dose.
  • Vaccine doses are based on age and not weight and so if a child turns 12 after their third dose, they do not need to repeat the first dose, the CDC said.

State of play: 1.9 million 5-11 year-olds had COVID-19, according to CDC data presented on Tuesday. However, evidence of prior COVID infection isn't proof of protection.

  • Researchers have seen no increased risk of the heart condition myocarditis from vaccination, but those that are unvaccinated are at a higher risk of getting COVID and "getting COVID is much riskier to the heart,"presenter and pediatric cardiologist Matthew Oster said.

By the numbers: Shots for kids were 91% effective at preventing infection, the pharmaceutical companies’ trial showed.

  • Only three out of over 3,000 inoculated children experienced breakthrough infections, compared to over a dozen who had received the placebo.

Yes, but: Several surveys from the agency and other entities show initial uptake in this age bracket from parents isn't overwhelmingly high.

  • The panel says pediatrician offices will be key overall to reach families and reduce hesitancy as well as using school locations for kids of color or families who don't have a go-to doctor.

Go Deeper: How shots will make it into kids' arms

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Updated Nov 26, 2021 - Health

COVID vaccines of the future might not be shots

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As vaccine makers pursue the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines, some are working to develop products that wouldn't require a shot.

Why it matters: Delivering a vaccine through a pill or a nasal spray could make them much easier to administer, especially in places where distribution is challenging — or even for people who just don't like needles.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.