WASHINGTON (AP) – A panel of U.S. health advisers on Tuesday endorsed kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, moving the U.S. closer to beginning vaccinations in children ages 5 to 11.
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted unanimously with one abstention (17-1) that the vaccine’s benefits in preventing COVID-19 in that age group outweigh any potential risks – including a heart-related side effect that’s been very rare in teens and young adults who get a much higher dose.
The FDA isn’t bound by the panel’s recommendation and is expected to make its own decision within days.
If the FDA authorizes the kid-size doses, there’s still another step: Next week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have to decide whether to recommend the shots and which youngsters should get them.
While children are at lower risk of severe COVID-19 than older people, 5- to 11-year-olds still have faced substantial illness – including over 8,300 hospitalizations reported, about a third requiring intensive care, and nearly 100 deaths.
The dose for young children is just one-third of the Pfizer shot already recommended for everyone 12 and older. Moderna also is studying its vaccine for young children.
“It is a really exciting day,” said Dr. Allison Bartlett with Comer Children’s Hospital. “The vaccines now mean this is a preventable disease for all children ages five and up to 16.”
The Delta variant sent upwards of 30,000 children to the hospital in the last few months. Pfizer’s studies in children found its pediatric version is 90% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID – and can be administered with the flu shot.
“It’s understandable to have questions and not be sure about what the best thing to do is for your children,” said North Shore University Health System doctor Sharon Robinson. “So you want to turn to a trusted source of information and that certainly would be your child’s provider.”
Dr. Barlett told WGN News that Tuesday’s endorsement by the FDA is monumental for children moving forward.
“I’m so excited for them and excited that my 9-year-old is going to be able to get his first dose probably when his older brothers get their second dose,” she said. “By the beginning of December, my family will be fully vaccinated and boosted for the grownups.”