The Pfizer vaccine is readied for use during a free COVID-19 vaccination event held at New Horizon Church International in partnership with the Mississippi State Department of Health, Wednesday, August 4, 2021 in Jackson. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were available to those 12 years of age and older. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that all children ages 5-11 get a low-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky issued the recommendation on Tuesday, just hours after the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices supported the use of the  pediatric vaccine in a unanimous vote. 

“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus that causes COVID-19,” Walensky said. “We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 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.”

The pediatric version of the Pfizer vaccine is one-third the adult dose, but is still given in two doses, three weeks apart like the adult formulation. Pfizer says the lower dosage was chosen to minimize side effects and many hope this will assuage skeptical parents. 

Though this age group is now eligible to receive the shots, they won’t be widely available in Mississippi until next week at the earliest. On Sunday, 16 CVS pharmacies across the state will begin providing vaccinations for this age group. 

The Mississippi Department of Health pre-ordered 50,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine after the Food and Drug Administration approved it under an emergency use authorization on Oct. 29. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said that these doses and any further shipments will be distributed equitably to local partners and county health departments. 

“I think that there’s going to be broad availability for these vaccines for the parents that are interested in going ahead and getting their kids vaccinated right out of the gate,” Byers said. 

The federal government is shipping 15 million doses of the pediatric vaccine across the county this week, and President Joe Biden said that enough doses have been purchased to fully vaccinate every child in America. 

To date, 72,103 children ages 5-17 in Mississippi have contracted COVID-19 and six have died. Nationally, 1,997,660 children ages 5-11 have contracted COVID-19; 8,300 have been hospitalized and 172 have died, per CDC data. 

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Will Stribling covers healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.