On Feb. 11, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices released recommendations and updates to the children, adolescent and adult immunization schedules. The ACIP serves under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and works to develop vaccination recommendations for civilian populations in the United States.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACIP has played a critical role in updating language regarding various vaccinations, and most recently, has provided guidance on the COVID-19 vaccines. These recommendations include using COVID-19 vaccines within the scope of the Emergency Use Authorization, using the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people who are at least 16 years old, and using the Moderna vaccine for individuals 18 years and older.
Adult vaccination recommendations have not changed drastically from last year. The few changes made seek “to harmonize to the greatest extent possible the adult and child/adolescent schedules," said Mark S. Freedman, of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
As for childhood and adolescent recommendations, the ACIP approved an amendment to include COVID-19 vaccine recommendations in the immunization schedule. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics urges all eligible adolescents and adults to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them.
“Research has shown the new vaccines to be remarkably effective,” said AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers. “The vaccine is a powerful tool that — in conjunction with other safety measures like face masks, good hygiene and physical distancing — can help us end the suffering and death caused by COVID-19.”
This recommendation is especially relevant as studies have found that the number of children who have received general routine vaccinations, excluding COVID-19, has decreased during the pandemic. This drop in the number of immunizations can be attributed to misinformation about vaccines, decreased access to healthcare, and fear of COVID-19 exposure.
To address these concerns, the AAP urges current vaccine clinical trials to include children as young as 12 years of age.
"It is critical that pediatric patients of all ages be included in trials as quickly as possible,” said Beers in a statement. "We are especially concerned about children who belong to racial, ethnic, and cultural groups that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic or who have underlying conditions that place them at increased risk for developing severe COVID-19 infection."
The ACIP recommendations have been approved by the CDC, the AAP, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Ultimately, these recommendations aim to increase COVID-19 immunizations for eligible individuals and advocate for increased consideration of children and adolescents in clinical trials.
“Widespread administration of the vaccine is a huge step toward returning to normal,” said Beers. “The vaccine is a game-changer and we urge everyone who has the opportunity to get it to sign up now.”
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