The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to clear Moderna’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine for kindergarten through high school students for general distribution this week after the agency’s independent panel of vaccine experts voted unanimously Thursday to recommend the shots.

The committee approved the Moderna vaccine for children aged 6 to 17 years after examining its safety and efficacy at a public meeting. Director of the Center for Disease Control Dr. Rochelle Wallinsky is expected to sign the recommendation later Thursday, the last step before pharmacies and doctors’ offices begin administering the injections.

Moderna’s shots will not have an immediate impact on the US vaccination campaign, other than providing parents with another option to choose from. Previously, only the Pfizer vaccine was allowed for kindergarten through high school students, although its uptake was poor. Two-thirds of children aged 5-11 and 30% of teens aged 12-17 have not yet been vaccinated against Covid.

According to the CDC, more than 600 children of these age groups have died from COVID during the pandemic and more than 45,000 children have been hospitalized. Nearly 11 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 have contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Children 6 to 11 years old get smaller 50 mcg doses of Moderna, while 12 to 17 year olds get the same dose as adults at 100 mcg.

Moderna originally asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its vaccine for teens ages 12 to 17 more than a year ago, but the regulator halted after other countries raised concerns that the company’s shots might be linked to a higher risk of heart infection or myositis. Heart, from the Pfizer vaccine.

There are no head-to-head comparisons in the United States between carditis in children who get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines because Moderna’s vaccine is only licensed for adults until this month. However, comparisons between Pfizer and Moderna shots in young adults appear to show a slightly higher rate of myocarditis in Moderna recipients, although the data are not consistent across different US surveillance systems.

Dr. says. Tom Shimabukuro, an official in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Safety Unit, told the committee.

Available US data on myocarditis in children 6 to 17 years of age are based on reported side effects from the Pfizer vaccine because Moderna shots have not been approved for this age group yet. Pfizer and Moderna shots use similar messenger RNA technology.

The CDC identified 635 cases of myocarditis in children ages 5 to 17 after vaccination out of 54 million doses of Pfizer. The risk of developing myocarditis after the Pfizer vaccine is higher after the second injection among boys aged 12 to 17. Myocarditis is slightly higher among boys aged 5 to 11 after the second dose of Pfizer, although Than it is much less than teenagers.

Boys ages 16 to 17 reported 75 cases of myocarditis per million second doses of Pfizer, while boys ages 12 to 15 reported 46 cases of myocarditis, according to CDC data. . Boys aged 5 to 11 years reported 2.6 cases of myocarditis per million doses of Pfizer II.

People who develop myocarditis after vaccination are usually hospitalized for a few days as a precaution before being sent home. The CDC has found that the risk of developing myocarditis is higher from contracting Covid infection from vaccination. Myocarditis in children is usually caused by a viral infection.

The most common side effects reported in children aged 6 to 17 years during clinical trials of Morderna were injection site pain, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle aches, and nausea. There were no confirmed cases of myocarditis during the trials.

It is unclear how effective the shots are against the omicron variant. Clinical trials were conducted during periods when other strains of Covid were prevalent. The shots for 12- to 17-year-olds were 90% effective at preventing disease from the original Covid strain and the alpha variant, while the shots for children aged 6 to 11 were 76% more effective at preventing disease from the delta variant. , according to the Food and Drug Administration’s review of clinical trial data.

However, Covid vaccines have trouble fighting the omicron variant, now prevalent, because it contains many mutations. Third shots increased protection significantly in other age groups. Moderna is studying baby booster shots targeting Omicron with data expected later this summer.