Vaccinations for children under 5 begin in US

President Joe Biden celebrates 'monumental step forward' as last vaccine-eligible group can now get their first doses

A 2-year-old prepares to receive a Moderna Covid-19 vaccination in Salt Lake City, Utah. AP
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In a “monumental step forward” in the fight against Covid-19, vaccinations opened in the US for children under the age of 5 after health agencies issued approvals for the vaccines last week.

The age group from six months to 5 is the last to become eligible for vaccination in the US, marking a new milestone more than two years after the disease first emerged.

“The first time in our fight against this pandemic, nearly every American can now have access to life saving vaccines,” President Joe Biden said in remarks from the White House.

The first Covid-19 vaccines began to be administered in the country about 18 months ago, though approval for child immunisations was snarled several times, frustrating many parents.

“Finally, some peace of mind,” Mr Biden said.

The White House previously announced it had ordered millions of vaccines that would “immediately” be shipped out following the Food and Drug Administration's approval. Of the 10 million doses secured, half would be from Pfizer and the other half from Moderna.

The FDA authorised the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the age group last week, with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending young children receive either of the two vaccines.

Moderna's vaccine regimen requires two doses, while the Pfizer series requires three.

The CDC says there are almost 20 million children in the US who are eligible under this new authorisation.

“We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

“I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated.”

However, it is unknown what the uptake will be like nationally, as polls suggest parents may be reluctant to vaccinate their young children.

At least one in five parents of children under 5 years old say they will vaccinate them right away, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found in May, while 38 per cent said they will “wait and see” and 27 per cent said they “definitely” will not vaccinate.

A recent CDC study estimated that at least 75 per cent of US children have already been infected with coronavirus, though the agency still recommends vaccination.

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Updated: June 21, 2022, 8:48 PM