CDC Advisors OK Pfizer low dose COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11

  • A panel of experts for the CDC voted Tuesday to offer a low-dose version of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5-11 in the United States.
  • The vaccine is the same product that adults and teens get, but a smaller size.
  • Doctors and nurses at the meeting stressed that children should not die from vaccinable diseases and parents should not wait to vaccinate them.

Tinier COVID-19 shots, formulated for smaller people, are almost a reality in the United States.

An independent panel of experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted unanimously (14-0) and wholeheartedly to recommend Pfizer’s lower dose COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 5-11, making almost all children in school age qualified to be vaccinated in the United States.

The committee’s decision follows an emergency use permit from the Food and Drug Administration last Friday for Pfizer’s vaccine to be administered to the same age group.

The CDC’s official recommendation still requires a final thumbs up from the agency’s director, Rochelle Walensky, which is expected within a few hours.

It will trigger the vaccines to become available to children and their parents across the country in hospitals, doctors’ offices, health departments, temporary vaccine clinics in schools and community centers, as well as in pharmacies.

‘A child’ death from COVID is ‘too many’

CDC researchers stressed that getting school children vaccinated could give everyone “greater confidence” to socialize and go to school, knowing that they are well protected from the most horrific COVID-19 outcomes. Many of the doctors and nurses who advised the agency said they would not hesitate at all to vaccinate their own children and grandchildren in the age group 5-11 against COVID-19, where some become audibly tearful and think of the children who are died during pandemic.

94 children aged 5-11 died of COVID-19 during the pandemic, making it a leading cause of death for them.

Patsy Stinchfield, representing the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners at the CDC meeting, said that “even a child” who dies from COVID is “too many” when we have a safe, effective vaccine.

But vaccines for children may not be immediately available everywhere Wednesday morning because pharmacists cannot use what is already on the shelf.

Pfizer releases new vials with its COVID-19 for use in children under 12 years of age. Although the vaccine itself is exactly the same product as that given to teenagers and adults, it is administered in smaller doses with small needles.

A smaller vaccine for smaller people

The Kaiser Family Foundation predicts that “the demand for pediatric vaccinations may initially exceed supply as providers wait for the delivery of pediatric vaccines.” According to KFF, about a third of parents with children aged 5-11 want to get them vaccinated as soon as possible.

Throughout Tuesday, CDC advisers flooded data from Pfizer as well as from the CDC and the FDA on the safety of this vaccine for children. FDA researchers stressed that the amount of safety data available on this vaccine is already comparable to other vaccines that have previously been fully approved for use in children.

‘Use it to the maximum’

“We should be very sure” to “employ it to the maximum,” pediatrician Sarah Long, who is on the CDC committee, said of the low-dose vaccine.

The committee also heard from CDC researchers who have concluded that children are at least as likely to be infected with coronavirus as adults and that secondary transmission from children to teachers and parents or other caregivers (including deceased grandparents) in record numbers during the pandemic) is a concern.

The reason why shots for children lag so far behind adult vaccinations is that pediatric trials, both to determine the correct dosage for children (lower) and to ensure that the vaccine is safe for younger bodies, were not started before for more recently than experiments with adults.

“I have vaccinated my children because I think it is safe,” said CDC committee member Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, who stressed that parents across the country should feel confident that the committee is filled with parents and grandparents who take their responsibility to ensure vaccine safety for the entire nation to heart.

The only persistent risk of childhood vaccinations that counselors weighed during the day was the small, but real, risk of myocarditis after vaccination, which has been a problem for a small number of teenage boys (however, the risk of myocarditis after COVID-19 infection is far bigger and more dangerous.)

Pediatric cardiologist Matt Oster of Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta, who presented on myocarditis during the meeting, said “I think it’s less likely” that young children will develop myocarditis after vaccination than teenagers.

“If we wait, we will miss the chance to prevent” COVID-19 infections in children, “said committee member Dr. Matthew Daley, though he acknowledged that some parents may be hesitant or have concerns.

“We hear you,” Daly said. “I just want to encourage you to talk to your child’s pediatrician … they can just help talk through this with you. But we’re all here to listen.”

“Children are dying,” added counselor Dr. Oliver Brooks. “The vaccine is safe and effective.”

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