An independent advisory committee of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supports the provision of emergency doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 5-11 years.
Although younger children are thought to be less likely to become seriously ill or die from COVID-19, the FDA’s head of vaccines Dr. Peter Marks told the panel Tuesday that 1.9 million children in the age group 5 to 11 have been infected by the coronavirus and 8,300 of them are hospitalized in the United States. Of those hospitalized, a third needed intensive care, and nearly 100 children died.
With the approval of the vaccine in children, officials said they hoped the move would help close a huge gap in America’s vaccine campaign that has worried parents, educators and public health leaders.
Regulators said vaccination could start as early as next week.
Last week, the White House said it had obtained enough vaccine for the 28 million children in the United States who would qualify for the vaccine. The White House also began setting up a network of pediatricians, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers to quickly distribute injections.
The FDA, which is not bound by the panel’s recommendations, will make a decision on administering the vaccine to these children in the next few days.
While awaiting FDA approval, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) independent advisory committee is expected to consider the proposal next week.
In a related development, US-based pharmaceutical company Moderna says clinical trials have shown that low-dose COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children ages 6 to 11.
The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but Moderna said it would soon present its findings to the FDA and other global drug regulators.
Meanwhile, the news agency Reuters reports that the African Union will buy up to 110 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. AU will receive 15 million doses before the end of the year, and another 35 million doses will arrive in the first quarter of 2022 and about 60 million doses in the second quarter. [lt/rs]