A panel of advisers for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously approved giving COVID-19 vaccines to children as young as 6 months old on Saturday. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the decision later in the day.
The approval applies to vaccines manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
"We have been preparing for this moment," President Joe Biden tweeted. "Our Administration has already secured vaccine doses for America's youngest and are now launching a comprehensive effort with states, local health departments, America's pediatricians, family doctors, and more to help get shots into arms."
County health officials noted that young children are considered at lower risk of becoming severely ill or dying from COVID, but they said the risk is higher among unvaccinated children. They also contend that unvaccinated children are at higher risk of developing Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C.
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According to the county, over the past three months, unvaccinated children aged 12-17 were nearly four times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than vaccinated children. Among vaccine-eligible children in the county who contracted confirmed cases of MIS-C, 65% were unvaccinated, officials said.
"As we have seen with adults, children can experience short and long-term health problems from COVID-19," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "Vaccinations are a proven safety measure that protects your entire family, including now your youngest children, from severe illness and death from COVID. The development and approval of the vaccines for children under age 5 have gone through a rigorous evaluation and approval process as with all other routine childhood vaccines.
"As we make plans to gather with family and to enjoy the summer and upcoming holidays, now is the time to make sure that all our children are fully vaccinated. Vaccinated children and adults add an essential layer of protection for the entire community, especially with the proliferation of new, highly infectious variants."
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals increased by another 27 people to 639, according to the latest state data released Saturday. Of those patients, 67 were being treated in intensive care, down from 69 on Friday.
The county reported another 5,122 COVID infections Friday, raising the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,057,004. Another five virus-related deaths were also reported, lifting the overall death toll to 32,250.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose again, reaching 9.3%. Ferrer said the percentage is likely to rise as the volume of daily testing decreases due to schools being out of session.
The county does not report COVID data on weekends.