The United States has given final clearance for children aged 5 to 11 to start receiving the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement: "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."
Walensky noted in a meeting that pediatric hospitalization surged in the US during the recent wave driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus, and said the risk from the disease is "too high and too devastating for our children."
The risk from Covid-19 was far greater than other diseases for which children are generally vaccinated, she added.
With school closures having an impact on the mental health of children, Walensky hoped that pediatric vaccination would change the current scenario.
US President Joe Biden called the decision "a turning point" and a "major step forward" for the nation. He said in statement that it would allow parents to "end months of anxious worrying about their kids, and reduce the extent to which children give the virus to others."
He added that the program for children will ramp up over the coming days and will be in full swing some time next week.
Pfizer has already began shipping millions of shots to various states, doctors' offices, and pharmacies — they're packaged in orange caps to avoid mix-ups with purple-capped vials of adult vaccines.
The US has fully vaccinated 58% of the population, lagging behind several other countries like the UK and France in its efforts. Only a few other countries, like China, Cuba and the United Arab Emirates have cleared vaccines for children in this particular age group and younger.