An independent committee that advises the US Food and Drug Administration voted Tuesday to recommend Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Children ages 12 and older are already eligible for the vaccine.
Pfizer’s vaccine for younger kids is one-third the dose given to people age 12 and up, and it comes in a two-dose series given three weeks apart. When authorized, it could affect more than 28 million children, according to The New York Times.
The panel’s vote will need to be formally accepted and authorized by the FDA itself, which it’s expected to do. Once authorized, an independent committee that gives guidance to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to decide how coronavirus shots should be given to children, or if special recommendations should be made. This means shots could be available to kids ages 5 to 11 as early as next week.
Some members of the FDA’s panel seemed to hinge their decision on the discussion and guidance that the CDC’s panel will issue, including how parents should be guided to seek vaccines for their young kids, or if some should get their eligible kids vaccinated earlier than others. Ultimately, committee members voted that the benefits of allowing younger children to be vaccinated against COVID-19 outweigh the risks.
Although children are much less likely than adults to get severely sick or die from COVID-19, they’ve made up a substantial number of reported COVID-19 cases — more than 1.9 million, according to a presentation from Tuesday’s meeting. Long COVID, a condition of lingering symptoms that affects many people who’ve recovered from the coronavirus, has also been reported in children.
There are also racial disparities in how sick children get from COVID-19. Children who are Black, Native American or Hispanic are more than three times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than white children, according to the presentation. Of children ages 5 to 11 hospitalized with COVID-19, about one in three will require an ICU admission.
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