Dr. Fauci Warns It's "Critically Important" to Do This Now—Vaccinated or Not

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It's been a long two years, and at this point it's become hard to remember exactly what our lives were like before the COVID pandemic hit in 2020. During this time, there have been a number of developments made to fight the virus: Masks became a regular part of our lives, and then in 2021, the introduction of COVID vaccines was a major step forward in helping to reduce the serious impact of coronavirus.

But despite all these measures, the pandemic is not over. COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all still rising right now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency's latest data indicates that infections and hospitalizations have increased by 8 percent in the last week, while deaths are up by a concerning 18.6 percent.

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As numbers rise once again, however, there's now another significant new development in the fight against COVID. On June 17, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) chose to expand both Moderna and Pfizer's emergency-use authorization (EUA) to children as young as 6 months. The following day, the CDC endorsed the agency's decision, issuing a recommendation for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old to be vaccinated.

"Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation's fight against COVID-19," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said in a June 18 statement. "We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today's decision, they can."

All Americans older than 5 have been eligible for COVID vaccination since Nov. 2021. But the latest decision has opened up vaccinations to nearly 20 million additional children, according to the CDC. During a June 20 interview with Western Mass News, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, said that this final step in the U.S. vaccine rollout is a crucial one.

"This is very good news, good news for the children, but also good news for parents who have been quite concerned that their children have been vulnerable to a virus that really has a great deal of impact on society and in a very negative way," he said.

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On one hand, children have been some of the least at-risk individuals since the COVID pandemic started. Fauci confirmed that kids typically only develop a mild illness if infected with the virus. But that's certainly not always the case, as more than 400 children under the age of 5 have actually died from COVID, according to the infectious disease expert. With that in mind, he advises that all parents—vaccinated or not—take their young children to get their vaccines now to mitigate the potential for them to end up getting seriously sick.

"It's critically important that we protect our children," Fauci told Western Mass News, adding that especially with "children of this age group, who are particularly vulnerable, you want to make absolutely certain that you're dealing with an intervention that is proven to be effective and that is clearly safe."

When deciding whether to expand Moderna and Pfizer's EUA, the FDA looked at safety data for around 3,000 to 5,000 children 6 months to 5 years old who received either vaccine. According to the agency, some of the common vaccine side effects for this age group included irritability and decreased appetite.

"There's always what we call reactogenicity, which is seen in any vaccine, namely swelling at the arm, occasional fever," Fauci added. "Rarely, a child will get a very high fever, but this has not been any different from many of the other vaccines that we routinely give our children."

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