The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory committee has voted to recommend Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine be administered to children ages 12 to 15 – and soon may be giving the shot to even younger kids.
The companies are currently studying how well their vaccine works in children between ages six months and 11 years old.
In an interview on CBS This Morning, Dr William Gruber, Pfizer’s Senior Vice President of Vaccine Clinical Research and Development said data for those aged two to 11 could be available by the fall, and soon after be authorized.
‘This affords an opportunity to protect the adolescent against COVID-19 — although they less commonly have severe disease, they can end up in the hospital,’ he said.
‘And importantly, it allows adolescents to get back to being adolescents, to be able to to engage in sporting activities, to be able to go back to school, to be able to engage in drama club or gather in groups.’
It comes as 14 members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted ‘yes’ to give the shot to younger teens with one member recusing herself.
The vaccine was authorized for Americans aged 16 and older in December 2020 and Pfizer has been in trials for teens since October of last year.
With the formal recommendation from ACIP, and emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) given on Monday, it paves the way fro , most states to begin giving out the shot to adolescents on Thursday
Dr William Gruber, Pfizer’s Senior Vice President of Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, said on CBS This Morning (pictured) that children ages 2-11 could be given the vaccine by fall if it receives approval
It comes as the CDC’s advisory committee recommended that Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine be administered to children ages 12 to 15. Pictured: A teenager receives a shot in a clinical trial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine
Expanding vaccine availability to younger teenagers will make about 17 million additional Americans eligible for vaccination, a step that some see as critical to reaching herd immunity and improving safety as children return to school.
However, some parents and experts have questioned whether vaccinating children is really for their own benefit, or if it is risking the effects of a new vaccine in kids in order to protect adults, when only 0.1 percent of U.S. Covid fatalities have been in people under 18.
‘This is one more step to gaining immunity and bringing the pandemic closer to an end,’ Dr José Romero, chair of the ACIP and Arkansas’ health secretary, said in a statement.
‘We still need to vaccinate the rest of the world, but we have made significant steps and are on the road.’
In Pfizer’s phase III clinical trial, about 2,200 teenagers were enrolled in the U.S. compared to 40,000 for the aged 16 and older trial.
Half of the group received two doses of the vaccine three weeks apart and the other half were given two placebo injections.
A total of 18 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the placebo group while no cases were reported in the vaccine group.
This means that the vaccine was 100 percent safe and effective in 12-to-15-year-olds, according to the researchers.
What’s more, side effects were similar to those seen in the larger trial among 16-to-25-year-olds, including pain at the injection site, tiredness, fever and headaches.
At the time, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the hope was ‘starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year.
Researchers plan to track participants for two years to collect information long-term protection, effects and safety.
Now that the FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine and the CDC has issued its formal recommendations for children ages 12-15, states can begin giving the shots to tweens.
Children (in dark blue) make up only 0.1 % of U.S. Covid fatalities, but now account for 24% of all new coronavirus cases last week
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the shot could get authorization in his state by Thursday, once the CDC’s committee gives the go-ahead.
Louisiana health officials told WWL-TV that they will support the FDA’s decision, and New Orleans health officials announced the authorization and coming availability for those 12 and up, signaling the state and city will follow suit.
And Texas is reaching out to local pediatricians to get them to sign up to give the vaccines to kids and talk to local parents, but won’t start giving the shots until the CDC gives its seal of approval, reported Bloomberg Law.
Georgia blazed ahead on Tuesday, however, immediately opening vaccinations to tweens. The state falls in the bottom quarter of the U.S. for its Covid vaccination rates.
States are broadly expected to expand access to Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds, if they and their parents decide they should get the shots.
According to an Axios/Ipsos poll, parents are currently split about 50/50 on whether or not they want their children to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Insurance claims for mental health issues among Americans between ages 13 and 18 nearly doubled between January and November of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, according to a recent Fair Health report.
Parents, teachers, pediatricians and the CDC all agree that children desperately need to be back in school to protect their mental health and ensure they don’t fall behind educationally.
The CDC has said in no uncertain terms that schools – K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities – could safely reopen prior to the availability of vaccines for students, but only so long as they could keep kids in masks and maintain social distance in classes.
Currently, Pfizer’s vaccine is only available under emergency use authorization, a form of temporary approval granted with a lower bar of proof in crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, the company applied for full FDA approval. Getting full approval will require a massive data set and a much longer review, so it probably won’t come for months.
Until then, K-12 schools are unlikely to require the vaccine.
President Joe Biden encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated during an address on Wednesday (pictured)
According to NPR, the Biden administration has been planning a ‘back to school’ vaccination campaign.
Some of the steps include allowing pediatricians and general practitioners to administer vaccines and lowering eligibility for who van be vaccinated at pharmacies.
In addition, the administration plans have COVID-19 vaccines offered as part of annual physicals many children are required to complete before the new school year.
During a address on Wednesday afternoon, President Joe Biden encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated.
‘The vaccine for kids between the ages of 12 and 15 [is] safe, effective, easy, fast and free. My hope is that parents will take advantage,’ he said.