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vaccination nation

CDC director signs off on COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 to 11

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky has signed off on administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11.

Walensky's final approval came after the Food and Drug Administration authorized and a CDC panel formally recommended shots for kids — a dose that is a third of the amount given to teenagers and adults. There are 28 million American children between the ages of 5 and 11, and this is their first opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID.

"As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated," Walensky said in a statement released Tuesday night. Earlier in the day, she declared that there are American children "in the second grade who have never experienced a normal school year. Pediatric vaccination has the power to help us change all of that."

President Biden praised the decision as a "turning point," which will "allow parents to end months of anxious worrying about their kids, and reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others. It is a major step forward for our nation in our fight to defeat the virus."

The CDC said the vaccination of children should begin "as soon as possible," with kids getting two doses three weeks apart, administered via a smaller needle. Pediatric vials have orange caps, so they are not mixed up with the vials that are meant for adults and have purple caps, The Associated Press reports. Pfizer's study of 2,268 kids found that the smaller dose is almost 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.