Story at a glance

  • Panelists said the benefits of vaccinating young children outweighed the risks.
  • The FDA is expected to make its own decision in the next few days.
  • Vaccine developer Moderna is also researching a pediatric vaccine.

Advisers for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday voted to endorse Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, paving the way for federal authorization in the near future.

Members of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted unanimously with one abstention to recommend the use of the pediatric vaccine, which is equal to a third of an adult dose, CNN reported.

The panel said the benefits of vaccinating young children outweighed the risks associated with vaccination, including a rare heart-related side effect observed in teenagers and young adults.

The virus is “not going away,” FDA adviser Jeannette Lee of the University of Arkansas told The Associated Press (AP) Tuesday following the panel’s decision. “We have to find a way to live with it and I think the vaccines give us a way to do that.”


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Panelists also decided that parents should have the choice to vaccinate their young children despite them being at lower risk of becoming severely ill compared to older people, particularly if they live in areas where precautions like masks in schools aren’t being taken. Some also worried that the decision to vaccinate such a large population was based on studies of just a few thousand.

“I do think it’s a relatively close call,” adviser Eric Rubin of Harvard University told the AP. “It’s really going to be a question of what the prevailing conditions are but we’re never going to learn about how safe this vaccine is unless we start giving it.”

Despite the advisory committee’s endorsement, the FDA will make its own decision within the next few days. If it chooses to authorize the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will then have to decide whether to recommend it. The CDC will also be tasked with providing guidance on which children should and should not get the shot.

Vaccine developer Moderna, whose adult vaccine currently has emergency authorization from the FDA, is also studying the efficacy of its vaccine in young children. Data on experimental Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children younger than five years old is expected by the end of this year. 


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Published on Oct 26, 2021