Children aged five to 11 will be able to receive a kid-size dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine as soon as this week.
Following a unanimous vote by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel, mass vaccination for American school children are expected to begin promptly once CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky gives her stamp of approval.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already has OK’d kid-size Pfizer doses — just a third of the amount given to teens and adults — as safe and effective for the younger age group.
While the vaccines carry some risk for children, their benefits are much greater, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices concluded.
The Biden administration plans to have the vaccine program up and ‘running at full strength’ the week of November 8, according to presidential advisor Jeffrey Zients.
The CDC formally recommends who should receive FDA-cleared vaccines, and its advisers decided Pfizer’s shots should be opened to all 28million children five to 11 years old.
If Walensky signs off, it will mark the first opportunity for Americans under 12 years old to get the protection of any Covid-19 vaccine.
While the risk of severe disease and death is lower for young children, Walensky acknowledged the pandemic has had a profound impact on young people.
‘There are children in the second grade who have never experienced a normal school year,’ she said. ‘Pediatric vaccination has the power to help us change all of that.’
Over 8,300 children between ages five and 11 have been hospitalized and nearly 100 have died from the virus.
CDC officials calculated that for every 500,000 kids this age vaccinated, between 18,000 and 58,000 Covid-19 cases would be prevented, and prevent anywhere from 80 to 226 hospitalizations.
The question of how broadly the vaccine should be used for children is left to be answered by CDC advisers, who make formal recommendations for pediatricians and other medical professionals.
A study done by Pfizer of 2,268 school-aged children found the vaccine was 91% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 infections, based on 16 cases of Covid-19 among kids who were given dummy shots compared to three who were vaccinated and became sick.
The child-sized dose has also shown similar or fewer temporary reactions to other vaccines, like sore arms, fever or achiness.
The study, however, was not large enough to detect any more rare side effects, such as heart inflammation, which occasionally occurs for young men and teen boys. It isn’t clear if younger children receiving a smaller dose will also face that risk.
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