About 18 months after the first coronavirus vaccine was approved for adults, and after months of scientific hiccups, younger Americans can finally get their shot.
During discussions scheduled for Friday and Saturday, scientific advisers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will discuss the use of the Moderna vaccine for children under 6 and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children under 5. No vaccine for children under 6 years of age Months old
No surprises expected. On Wednesday, Food and Drug Administration advisers unanimously backed both vaccines, despite thin evidence of their effectiveness, especially against the now-spread coronavirus form across the country.
Nevertheless, the data as a whole indicate that both vaccines will at least protect children against serious illness, said Dr. Offer Levy, director of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Accurate Vaccine Program and an adviser to the FDA.
“These vaccines are basically safe and effective,” he said. “It was an extraordinary achievement.”
The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, is expected to sign the agreement, assuming the advisers return the vaccines. The White House says states have already received millions of doses and will be ready to give shots to children early Tuesday.
But while some parents are calling for the vaccine, many are hesitant – because their children have already gained some protection against the infection, or they still have doubts about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine has been available for children ages 5 to 11 since November, but less than 30 percent of children under that age have received two shots.
The acceptability of the vaccine will depend in part on how clear the CDC’s recommendations are. The FDA approves the use of vaccines, but doctors look to the CDC’s advisory committee for specific specifications on how to use them.
At this point, that suggestion can be complicated, as the two vaccines differ in almost every case.
For young children receiving the modern vaccine, the FDA has approved two doses of 25 micrograms, one-fourth of the amount used for adults, at four-week intervals.
But according to data presented to the agency on Wednesday, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine – just three micrograms each, or one-tenth of an adult – have failed to build strong immunity against the virus in young children.
To be effective, the Pfizer vaccine must be administered in three doses: the first two at three-week intervals, and the third at least two months later.
Differences will make it harder for both parents and healthcare providers to choose. Levy said. But “the problem is that they are not compared to the head.”
On Friday, scientists from both companies will present evidence in support of their vaccine for young children. Advisers will have the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns before recommending them on Saturday.
On Tuesday, FDA advisers also endorsed the use of the modern vaccine for children 6 years of age or older, but the CDC committee has so far postponed that discussion.