The director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday evening gave the final approval for use of Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine in children aged five to 11, Reuters reported. This paves the way for immediate vaccination of those in the age group.

On October 29, the Food and Drug Administration had authorised the Pfizer shots for children. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally recommends who should receive FDA-cleared vaccines.

The Food and Drug Administration authorised a 10-microgram dose of Pfizer vaccine in young children. The original shot given to those aged 12 and older is 30 micrograms.

Officials of the Food and Drug Administration found that the vaccine was around 91% effective in preventing the infection in children.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Rochelle Walensky said that pediatric hospitalisations had risen during the latest wave driven by the Delta variant of the virus.

“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,” she said in a statement.

Walensky highlighted that school closures have had detrimental social and mental health impacts on children, adding that the risk from the infection “is too high and too devastating” for the youngsters.

US President Joe Biden described the decision as a turning point in the battle against the pandemic. “It will allow parents to end months of anxious worrying about their kids, and reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others,” he said in a statement. “It is a major step forward for our nation in our fight to defeat the virus.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the decision of the medical panel because “the evidence is so clear”, Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said in a tweet. “Kids 5 to 11 are better off vaccinated.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics also welcomed the decision. “Vaccinating children will protect children’s health and allow them to fully engage in all of the activities that are so important to their health and development,” it said. “Parents can enjoy greater peace of mind gathering with family members this winter and sending their children to school, sports and other events that were paused during the height of the pandemic.”