Austin Public Health announced eligibility for both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccines has been expanded to include children under 5 years old June 21, days after federal public health agencies said young children may now begin receiving those shots.

“This vaccine expansion comes at a critical time when we’re dealing with new subvariants and high community transmission,” Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority, said in a statement. “These vaccines will help to protect your children from severe COVID-19 symptoms and being hospitalized.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both cleared the use of the two COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old this month. The updated recommendations advise that a two-dose Moderna shot series may be administered to children from 6 months through 17 years old—the vaccine was previously cleared for people 18 years old and above. The three-dose Pfizer series, previously recommended for 5-year-olds and above, is now open to those from 6 months through 4 years old.

Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine is not currently authorized for the younger age group, and the CDC has said Moderna and Pfizer's mRNA vaccines are preferred for all ages.

“Many parents, caregivers and clinicians have been waiting for a vaccine for younger children, and this action will help protect those down to 6 months of age. As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in a June 17 statement. “Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed that the state health agency first began shipping doses of the newly approved vaccines for younger children June 20. APH said specialized training is needed to administer those shots, which it is now offering through its Shots for Tots clinics and Mobile Vaccination Program.

A vaccine clinic offering Pfizer and Moderna shots for all ages will also be held at Old Sims Elementary School at 1203 Springdale Road, Austin, from 2-7 p.m. June 22-23, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. June 25.

"The expanded availability is another milestone in building our community’s resiliency and protection from COVID-19,” APH Director Adrienne Sturrup said in a statement. “Families with little ones can visit their doctor’s office or APH to get the vaccine and stay up to date on boosters. Vaccines at our clinics are free and do not require identification, insurance or proof of citizenship."

Locally, Austin Public Health has administered more than 529,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of June 21 and said an estimated 74% of Travis County residents age 5 and above have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.