The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated recommended vaccine schedules for children, adolescents and adults to include the COVID-19 biologics. The move is consistent with recommendations made by the agency’s Advisory Committee on Vaccine Practices (ACIP) in October 2022.1 2 3 4 5
The update of the recommended vaccination schedules was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on Feb. 9, 2023.6 According to the authors of the report, Neil Murthy, MD, MPH and A. Patricia Wodi, MD of the CDC:
This means COVID-19 vaccine is now presented as any other routinely recommended vaccine and is no longer presented in a special “call out” box as in previous years. This, in a sense, helps ‘normalize’ this vaccine and sends a powerful message to both healthcare providers and the general public that everyone ages six months and older should stay up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccines (including a booster, when eligible), just as they would with any other routinely recommended vaccine.6
Under the new guidelines, doctors are told to give children six months to four years old an initial series of two doses of either Pfizer/BioNTech’s Comirnaty or Moderna/NIAID’s Spikevax messenger RNA (mRNA) monovalent shot, followed by a third dose of either the Spikevax or Comirnaty mRNA bivalent booster shot. Children five to 11 years old are recommended to get two doses of either the Comirnaty or Spikevax mRNA monovalent shot, followed by a third dose of the bivalent version of either of these shots.1 2 3 4 5
CDC officials tell doctors to give children 12 to 18 years of age two doses of either the Comirnaty or Spikevax mRNA monovalent shot or two doses of Novavax’s Nuvaxovid protein-based, adjuvanted vaccine, followed by a third dose of a bivalent booster shot. Adults are recommended to get two doses of either the Comirnaty or Spikevax mRNA monovalent shot.1 2 3 4 5
COVID Vaccine Still Not Officially Licensed by FDA for Young Children
The COVID shots, including the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that hold market share in the U.S., have still not been officially licensed by the FDA for young children and are being distributed under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This is the first time in U.S. history that an unlicensed vaccine has been added to the government’s recommended childhood vaccination schedule.8
Marc Siegel, MD, professor of medicine at New York University’s Langone Medical Center said he supports the idea of adding the COVID shots to the CDC schedule for children five years of age and older because it will help with insurance coverage. However, he does not support the shots being added to the schedule for children six months to five years old. Either way, though, Dr. Siegel stressed that he believes the vaccine should not be mandated and the decision of whether or not to get the COVID shots should remain a personal choice by parents on behalf of a minor child.7
“I feel strongly that the vaccine should not be mandated,” Dr. Siegel said.7
Most Parents Resist Giving COVID Shots to Their Children
Despite the CDC’s decision to recommend the COVID shots for children, many parents in the United States remain hesitant about giving these shots to their kids.
A study published in the MMWR on Feb. 17, 2023 found that, as of Dec. 31, 2022, only 5.1 percent of American children between the ages of six months and four years had completed the primary series of COVID shots. For children 5-11 years old and 12-15 years old, only 24 percent and 33.3 percent respectively had completed the primary series of COVID shots.9
The MMWR cited data from the Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor indicating that among parents of unvaccinated children six months to four years of age, some 80 percent were concerned about the side effects of the COVID shots, while 70 percent were concerned that the shots would not prevent their children from getting COVID.9
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1 Becker’s Hospital Review. CDC adds COVID-19 shots to routine vaccine schedules. Feb. 10, 2023.
2 Foley KE. CDC adds Covid-19 vaccinations to immunization schedules for children, adults. Politico Feb. 9, 2023.
3 Vlachoou M. CDC Adds COVID Vaccines To Recommended Immunizations For Children, Adults. HuffPost Feb. 10, 2023.
4 Wade G. Covid-19 vaccines added to routine immunisation schedule in US. New Scientist Feb. 10, 2023.
5 Weixel N. CDC adds COVID vaccine to routine immunization schedule for kids, adults. The Hill Feb. 9, 2023.
6 Chavez J. CDC adds Covid-19 shots to list of routine vaccines for kids and adults. CNN Feb. 9, 2023.
7 Rudy M. CDC adds COVID-19 vaccines to official immunization schedule for kids as young as 6 months. Fox News Feb. 20, 2023.
8 Press Release. Pfizer and BioNTech Submit Supplemental Biologics License Application for U.S. FDA Approval of Omicron BA.4/BA.5-Adapted Bivalent COVID-19 Vaccine for Ages 12 Years and Older as Primary Series or Booster. Pfizer Feb. 24, 2023.
9 Murthy BP et al. COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage and Demographic Characteristics of Infants and Children Aged 6 Months–4 Years — United States, June 20–December 31, 2022. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Feb. 17, 2023; 72(7): 183–189.