Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Oct. 20 recommended adding COVID-19 vaccines to the child and adolescent immunization schedules, despite the vaccines still being under emergency authorization for some children.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) cast the vote during a meeting on updating the schedules for youth and adults.
All members voted to add the Moderna, Pfizer, and Novavax vaccines to the 2023 schedules, asserting that the vaccines, despite waning effectiveness, can still prevent severe disease.
“We view this as COVID is here to stay,” Dr. Matthew Daley, one of the advisers, said. “When I think about the routine immunization schedule as a pediatrician, I think of it as an opportunity to prevent serious disease and death. And if something is added to the schedule, it’s because I feel like the benefits continue to strongly outweigh the risks.”
The Pfizer and Moderna bivalent boosters will also be added, if ACIP’s advice is taken.
ACIP recommends a schedule. The CDC and partner groups approve the recommendation. The American Academy of Family Physicians, one of the groups, said that it would review the ACIP’s recommendation.
The COVID-19 vaccines have proven increasingly ineffective against both infection and severe illness from newer virus variants. In addition, there is no evidence the vaccines protect against severe disease for children under 5. The clinical trials for that population weren’t powered to measure such efficacy. Further, the new bivalent boosters have not been tested in humans at all.
“I suppose we should not be surprised that the ACIP has voted to add it to the CDC’s recommended childhood vaccine schedule, even though it has not been fully licensed by FDA for use in children. The past three years has taught us that federal health officials have politicized the COVID vaccine development, licensing, and policymaking process and rubber-stamped the questionable science provided by pharmaceutical companies,” Barbara Loe Fisher, president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, told The Epoch Times in an email.
“Now it is up to parents to let their state legislators know they want vaccine informed consent protections in public health laws and are opposed being forced to give their children the COVID vaccine as a condition of attending school, receiving medical care or for any other reason,” she added.
Advisers stressed before the vote that adding the vaccines to the schedules does not in itself mean the vaccines will be mandated for school children. But laws in 31 states and the District of Columbia require the vaccines on the schedules be taken by children for school attendance, according to the Policy, Practice, and Prevention Research Center at the University of Illinois Chicago’s School of Public Health. Some other states impose requirements that largely align with the schedules.
The COVID-19 vaccines are still under emergency use authorization for children aged 6 months to 11 years. No vaccines are available to children under 6 months of age. Dr. Lynn Bahta, a CDC adviser, asked whether it was allowed to add such a vaccine to the schedules.
“Before we brought this to the workgroup, we had a conversation about this with the Office of General Counsel and we’re told it’s ok to add it to the schedule,” Dr. Patricia Wodi, a CDC official, responded.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of General Counsel and the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel did not respond to requests for comment. The Epoch Times has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for communications between the offices and the CDC on the matter.