On the recommendation of a special advisory panel, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky yesterday signed off on the use of a pediatric dose of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine in children between 5 and 11 years old. The move follows last week’s granting of an emergency use authorization for that age group by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and with it, the vaccine clears the final hurdle for use in these children. Ahead of the CDC announcement, pediatric doses were already being shipped, according to a White House briefing reported by multiple outlets.
Children in this age group have had a long wait for shots. Last December, Pfizer’s was the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive emergency use authorization for people 16 and older, and it was authorized for children between 12 and 15 years old in May. The FDA fully approved the vaccine for people 16 and older in August (it has yet to do so for younger age groups). Pfizer has said it could release data on its vaccine in children under five this year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
More than 100,000 children in the US tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 last week alone, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics—representing nearly a quarter of overall new cases nationwide. The CDC reports that 455 children between the ages of 5 and 18 have died of COVID-19. Others have suffered serious effects such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children or long COVID.
“We have one more vaccine that saves lives of children,” says advisory panel member Sarah Long, a professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, in remarks quoted by CNN. She adds that “we should be very confident to deploy it to the maximum to do what it is meant to do without significant concerns of serious adverse effects.”