The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on June 18 recommended COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months of age.
"We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director, 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," she added.
No COVID-19 vaccines were available to children under 5 in the United States before this week's events.
Government officials say the age group, comprised of about 19.5 million children, will begin getting the vaccines on June 20.
"I feel comfortable in saying that vaccinating will be a benefit, a net benefit. We don't know how much, but it will be a net benefit. So we are making a decision that will help children that we know now will get a certain level of efficacy," Dr. Oliver Brooks, one of the members, said after the votes.
Members spent portions of the meeting discussing how to best convince parents to vaccinate their children. Surveys indicate that a majority of parents with children under 5 will wait until more information becomes available, will not have their children vaccinated unless the vaccination becomes mandatory, or will never have their children vaccinated.
The clinical trials that led to the current situation, funded by the companies themselves, were based on the controversial immunobridging technique, which involves a comparison of levels of antibodies between young children and a group of adults.
There were no clinical efficacy measurements in terms of protection against severe illness from either trial.
The CDC estimates it will take between 670 and 1,300 vaccinations to prevent a single case of COVID-19 and between 6,150 and 12,300 vaccinations to prevent a single hospitalization.
Bonnie Maldonado, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Committee on Infectious Diseases, was among those advocating for children to get one of the vaccines.
"The AAP strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccines for all infants, children, and adolescents who do not have contraindications for using a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in their age. This includes primary series, additional doses, and/or booster doses as recommended by the CDC," she said during the meeting.
Others, though, raised concerns about the vaccines' safety and efficacy.
"This is the first vaccine to be distributed under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and the first vaccine using mRNA technology to be used in humans," Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, told The Epoch Times in an email. "There were a limited number of infants and young children studied and there is no safety data on simultaneous administration of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines when given along with other vaccines. The knowledge base is limited and long term effects on immune function are not known."
She urged parents who do get their children vaccinated to not assume symptoms like fever that appear following vaccination are unrelated to the vaccines, and to explore reporting symptoms to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.