The United States is about to start vaccinating children as young as six months old against Covid-19 after top health advisers voted to recommend inoculating infants against the virus.
The 12-member panel advising the US Centers for Disease Control supported the decision, which was endorsed by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
The vaccination program should start next week.
This means the United States will vaccinate the youngest age group in the world, except for Nicaragua, which expanded the program to all ages in December.
US President Joe Biden hailed the move, describing it as a “monumental step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus”.
“For parents across the country, this is a day of relief and celebration. As the first country to protect our youngest children with Covid-19 vaccines,” he added.
The CDC’s recommendation came the day after the US Food and Drug Administration cleared vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Both vaccines were found to produce antibodies similar to those seen in young adults.
Millions of doses are expected to be shipped to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.
While Covid-19 is considered to be milder in children than in adults, the disease remains the fifth leading cause of death in children aged one to four.
“This infection is killing children, and we have an opportunity to prevent that,” said Beth Bell, one of the panel doctors.
“Here is an opportunity to prevent a known risk.”
There was resistance from some parents of children aged 5 to 11 after the vaccine was approved for that age group in November.
Fewer than percent of children in this age group received a double dose.
There has also been a political backlash.
Last week, Republican Florida Governor and likely presidential candidate Ron DeSantis said the state would not provide programs to administer the vaccines.
“I would say we are affirmatively against the Covid vaccine for young children,” DeSantis said. “These are the people who have no risk of getting anything.”