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CDC Adds COVID-19 Vaccine to Recommended Vaccination Schedule

By Natasha K. Sriraman, MD, MPH, FAAP, FABM, Pediatrician and Breastfeeding Medicine Specialist

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added the COVID-19 vaccine to its newly updated list of recommended vaccines for kids and adults.

The immunization schedule is updated annually and summarizes current vaccine recommendations for both children and adults, but does not determine vaccines required for schools or workplaces. School-entry vaccination requirements are determined by state or local jurisdictions, and not by the CDC.

What does this mean?

While the COVID-19 vaccine has long been recommended by federal and state health agencies, it was not previously on the list of routine recommended vaccines. That changes with the schedule released in February 2023, which makes the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters part of a normal routine, for children 6 months and older, rather than a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Which COVID-19 vaccines are recommended?

The CDC recommends that healthy children 6 months to 4 years old receive a primary series of two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech monovalent COVID-19 vaccine followed by a third dose of a bivalent vaccine.

Children aged 5 to 12 should receive two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine followed by a bivalent shot. Kids 12 and up should get either two doses of the Moderna, Pfizer, or Novavax vaccine followed by a bivalent booster. Currently, only Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech manufacture updated bivalent shots that target coronavirus variants that were circulating widely last fall.

Immunocompromised children should receive three doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as a primary series instead of two, and they should also receive a bivalent booster.

What other changes were made?

The schedule also addresses vaccine recommendations during community outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as mumps and polio. The schedule recommends an additional booster of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in communities that experience a measles outbreak, such as the one that occurred recently in Ohio. Also, an additional poliovirus vaccine is recommended when new cases of polio arise, which recently occurred in New York.

For other changes, check this CDC link.

Why is the vaccination schedule important?

Public health experts are trying to get the word out about the importance of vaccinations, noting the coverage for children has fallen since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Vaccination rates among school-aged children, which declined during the pandemic, continue to lag behind pre-pandemic rates. This decline translates to more than 250,000 vaccine-eligible children who are at risk for contracting various infectious diseases.

While these are recommendations, the Virginia Department of Health also has a schedule of vaccinations that are required for school entry.

What else should I keep in mind?

Pediatric practices are particularly busy in late summer, as parents rush to get their children vaccinated before the start of school. So please don’t wait until the last minute to make sure your child has vaccinations to keep them healthy.

Our pediatric offices are busy, so please call your practice at least 30 to 60 days before vaccinations and school and sports physicals are due to avoid any delay in your child starting the school year.

It is important to remember that vaccinations have eradicated diseases that used to cause significant illness and even death in infants, toddlers, and children. Vaccinations are one of the top public health achievements, and in this country, we are very fortunate to have access to these lifesaving vaccinations.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.