Pfizer asks US to allow COVID vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11

Pfizer asks US to allow COVID vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11

October 7, 2021

For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.

Pfizer has asked the US government to allow use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 in what would be a major expansion that could combat an alarming rise in serious infections in youngsters and help schools stay open.

If regulators give the go-ahead, reduced-dose kids’ shots could begin within a matter of weeks for the roughly 28 million US children in that age group.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech say their research shows younger children should get one-third of the dose now given to everyone else.Credit:AP

Many parents and paediatricians are clamouring for protection for youngsters under 12, the current age cutoff for COVID-19 vaccinations in the US.

The Food and Drug Administration will have to decide whether the shots are safe and effective in primary school-age children. An independent expert panel will publicly debate the evidence on October 26.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said their research shows the younger kids should get one-third of the dose now given to everyone else. After their second dose, the 5- to 11-year-olds developed virus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as those that teens and young adults get from regular-strength shots.

While kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, COVID-19 does sometimes kill children – at least 520 so far in the US, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. And cases in youngsters have skyrocketed as the extra-contagious Delta variant has swept through the country.

While some parents will no doubt take a hard stand against vaccinating their children, many are eagerly awaiting authorisation of the shots after 18 months of remote learning, COVID-19 scares and infections, mask debates and school quarantines.

They are looking forward to regular visits to grandparents again, worry-free play dates, holidays and the peace of mind of dropping children at school without the constant fear they will get sick. Principals are hoping the shots will allow schools to stay open and return to normal.

Sarah Staffiere of Waterville, Maine, said she couldn’t wait for her children to get vaccinated, especially her 7-year-old, who has a rare immune disease that has forced the family to be extra cautious throughout the pandemic.

“My son asked about playing sports. ‘After you’re vaccinated.’ He asked about seeing his cousins again. ‘After you’re vaccinated.’ A lot of our plans are on hold,” said Staffiere, a laboratory instructor at Colby College. “When he’s vaccinated, it would give our family our lives back.”

Pfizer studied the lower dose in 2268 volunteers ages 5 to 11 and said there were no serious side effects. The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that sometimes occurs after the second dose of the regular-strength vaccine, mostly in young men.

Cindy Schilling, a school principal in West Virginia, which ranks dead last among the states in the percentage of fully vaccinated residents, said she doesn’t think many parents would take their children to get the shot.

She said she often hears them say they are more concerned about the effects of the vaccine than COVID-19, mainly because they haven’t seen any young children get dangerously sick.

“Some parents are all for it and getting it for peace of mind,” she said, “but the majority of parents I’ve talked to will not be getting it.”

Offering shots to younger school children would be another big expansion of the US vaccination drive at a time when many poor countries are desperately short of vaccine. The US has just begun dispensing booster shots to tens of million of senior citizens and other vulnerable Americans.

If the FDA authorises emergency use of the kid-size doses, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final decision, after hearing from its outside advisers.

To avoid mix-ups, Pfizer is planning to ship the lower-dose vials specially marked for use in children.

Moderna has requested FDA permission to use its vaccine in 12- to 17-year-olds and also is studying its shots in primary school children. Both Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger children as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.

AP

Get a note direct from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.

Most Viewed in World

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article