U.S. committee recommends COVID shot for CDC's free vaccine program

NEW YORK, Oct 19 (Reuters) - An expert committee on Wednesday recommended that COVID-19 shots become part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) vaccine program for children, which provides many types of free inoculations to millions of kids each year.

While all COVID-19 vaccines are currently provided free in the United States by the federal government, the U.S. public health emergency is expected to end in early 2023 and the private market will take over distribution of COVID vaccines and treatments.

The committee's recommendation allows for distribution by the Vaccines for Children Program under the CDC's current COVID vaccine guidance, which is for all children over the age of 6 months to be vaccinated and those age 5 and older to receive booster shots.

During the advisory meeting, health officials emphasized that they were not voting on adding COVID-19 shots to the CDC annual vaccination schedule. They said this was a step in that direction but did not lay out additional steps or the timeline for such a move.

In the United States, the CDC sets out a schedule of vaccination targets by age and states decide which vaccines are mandatory for school entry.

Only about one-third of school-aged children have been vaccinated for COVID-19 in the United States.

Reporting by Khushi Mandowara in Bengalaru and Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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