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FDA clears Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages five to 11

There are 28 million kids in that age group in the US

A health worker holds a vial containing Pfizer Covid-19... Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for five- to 11-year-olds, opening up the shots to a new age group and ending an anxious wait for families of children in that bracket.

Children are less likely to have severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19, but they can still catch and spread the disease. Cases and deaths in children peaked in September, which was the worst month for that age group — there were over a million new cases in that group.

The authorization makes vaccination available to 28 million new people in the US. Polling in September showed that around a third of parents say that they wanted to vaccinate their five- to 11-year-old children “right away” after authorization.

The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is available for this group under an emergency use authorization. The FDA fully approved the shot for people 16 and older, but it’s still considered an emergency use product for people five to 16.

California says that it plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccines required to attend school as soon as it has full approval for school-aged kids and teenagers. New York is considering a similar requirement.

The other two COVID-19 vaccines available in the US, the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, are only available to people 18 years of age and older. The FDA was close to clearing the Moderna shot for adolescents between 12 and 17, but delayed the decision to take a closer look at the data around the rare risk of heart inflammation. Johnson & Johnson is still conducting trials in younger age groups.