An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 Tuesday, paving the way for the administration of the shots to school-aged children as soon as Wednesday.
The advisers said the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of the vaccine. Much of their discussion stemmed from rare cases of heart inflammation that have been linked to the vaccine, particularly young men.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must sign off on recommendations before the United States can begin administering the vaccine to children in the age group.
Physicians already had millions of doses of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine – which is a dosage one-third of the strength of the version given to adults – shipped to their offices and ready to be doled out, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency authorization to the vaccine last week.
The vaccine consists of two doses to be given three weeks apart.
Pfizer has also applied for approval of its pediatric vaccine in Canada, though Health Canada is still reviewing the application. A decision could still be “a few weeks away,” and likely won’t come until at least mid-to-late November, Health Canada’s Dr. Supriya Sharma said at a press conference Friday.
COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged 5-11 still ‘weeks away’: Sharma
White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Jeff Zients said Monday the United States has enough supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for all 28 million children aged five to 11. While some children may be able to get their first shots as soon as Wednesday, Zients said the U.S. pediatric vaccine program will be running at full strength by next week.
The FDA authorized a 10-microgram dose of Pfizer’s vaccine in young children. The original shot given to those age 12 and older is 30 micrograms.
Advisers to the FDA last week said the lower dose could help mitigate some of the rare side effects. At their meeting, they paid close attention to the rate of a heart inflammation called myocarditis that has been linked to the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, primarily in young men.
Children are also at lower risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 infection than older groups.
Few countries so far have authorized the Pfizer vaccine in this five to 11 age group. Bahrain also approved it on Tuesday.
—with files from Reuters
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