On Thursday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted unanimously to recommend a modern coronavirus vaccine for children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17.
Their approval was not a surprise, nor was it urgently expected. The Food and Drug Administration approved the modern vaccine for that age group late last week, and the two organizations’ decisions were rarely in disagreement.
The recommendation was one of the last barriers before a second vaccine option became available to those under 18 years of age. The vaccine, produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, has been available since last year for children 5 to 15 years old and for Americans 16 years or older. Towards the end of 2020.
The Moderna vaccine was approved for adults in December 2020. Last June, the company applied for its vaccine use among teenagers aged 12 to 17, who will receive 100 micrograms, the same dose as adults. But while the FDA took about a month to sign off on Pfizer’s application for older children, it has suspended Modern’s application.
In an announcement in October, Moderna said the FDA was reviewing reports that suggested its vaccine could cause heart problems in teenage boys. The agency also said it would stop applying for approval for children ages 6 to 11 until the FDA decides for older children.
In May, Moderna submitted its application to the FDA for children 6 to 11 years old, who will receive 50 micrograms or half the dose for adults.
In a closely watched two-day meeting last week, FDA advisers first approved the Moderna vaccine for children 6 to 17 years of age and then the use of both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children 6 months of age.
At their meeting on Thursday, committee members presented data indicating that the modern vaccine is effective against about 80 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 and about 90 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. But all that information was gathered before the arrival of the Omicron variant, which showed some ability to evade immunity.
“We know that covid can cause serious illness and death in children and adolescents who do not have underlying medical conditions,” said Dr. Sarah Oliver, a CDC scientist who presented some data.
“The benefits outweigh the risks of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine for all ages,” he said. Oliver said.
CDC researchers say the modern vaccine is generally safe. It carries a much lower risk of transient heart problems in adolescent boys aged 12 to 17 years, but the same risk has been observed with the Pfizer vaccine, according to Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, CDC scientist who presented the data.
Several studies have shown that covid itself carries a much higher risk of heart disease than the vaccine.
Nevertheless, to reduce the risk of heart disease, the CDC now recommends that boys and men aged 12 to 39 should keep their doses separate within eight weeks.
Much of Thursday’s discussion focused on the potential confusion of different vaccine providers providing different doses for different ages.
There is no information on the usefulness of the booster shot of the modern vaccine for children and adolescents, and the FDA has only approved the vaccine for initial doses. But these data are likely to be available when these children become eligible for modern booster shots, CDC scientists say.