Children ages 5 to 11 are a step closer to being eligible for the Pfizer vaccine : NPR

Children 5-11 years of age are one step closer to qualifying for the Pfizer COVID vaccine. This is a low-dose formulation and is expected to go to the next CDC advisory panel.



Scott Simon, Host:

It seems that most elementary school students will not be fully vaccinated just by Thanksgiving. The Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for a total of 5 to 11 year olds. There are only a few steps left before sending shots. Selena Siemens-Daphne, NPR’s Health Policy Representative, joined us. Selena, thank you for being with us.

Selena Siemens-Daphne, Byline: Hello. Good morning, Scott.

Simon: Good morning. It’s been a long time coming for many parents. What do we know about the timeline?

Siemens-Daphne: Yes, at the moment, vials of low-dose vaccines for children are being filled for distribution across the country. They have orange caps and orange striped labels that can easily be identified as pediatric versions. And Jeff Zents, White House Cove 19 Response Coordinator, spoke exclusively with NPR’s Tamara Keith yesterday, and here’s what he said.

JEFF ZIENTS: Within minutes of the FDA’s approval, the teams began packing the vaccine to be sent. They are filled with special little syringes, dry ice and tracking labels.

Siemens Daphne: He said 15 million initial doses were being sent to 20,000 different locations. But even though all of this is happening and the FDA has played its part in allowing the vaccine, children will not be given pills until the CDC weighs in, and this will happen next week. Is going to

Simon: And let us go through that process if you can.

Siemens Daphne: All right. So on Tuesday, there’s a meeting of outside scientists advising the CDC on the vaccine. They are going to consider for whom the vaccine should be prescribed. So should there be a whole group of children this age or some children with certain conditions? And they will consider broader public health issues, such as the role of this age group in community expansion and concerns about barriers to schooling. After voting on Tuesday, the final step is for CDC Director Rochelle Valensky to make an official recommendation. And if everything goes according to plan, then the rollout will begin. However, the Giants told NPR yesterday that it would not be immediate.

ZIENTS: Although we expect the first batch of children to be vaccinated by the end of next week, most of the vaccines will reach their destination by the week of November 8.

Siemens-Daphne: Just like adults and teens, this is a two-dose series with an interval of 21 days. So if you do the math – say the first shot is right on November 8 – the second shot will be on November 29, so a little after Thanksgiving.

Simon: Selena, you followed the meetings and discussions at the FDA last week. What did you learn about how safe and effective the vaccine is?

Siemens-Daphne: Well, the data that Pfizer submitted to the FDA shows that the vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing the symptomatic COVID-19, and that the trial did not have safety concerns. More than 4,000 children were involved, although I must say a very rare side effect, such as myocarditis, would not appear in a study of this size. Still, federal health officials who spoke to reporters yesterday say they believe the vaccine is safe and effective for children.

Simon: Selena, a recent survey shows that only one-third of parents say they plan to vaccinate their children right away. What kind of concern is that?

Siemens Daphne: Yes. I mean, the optic was slower than expected when they qualified in the 12- to 17-year-old age group, and some public health officials think the optic might be slower in that group as well. Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock was asked yesterday about parents who want to wait for other children to be vaccinated, and what she said.

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Janet Woodcock: As a parent, and if I had young children this age, I would vaccinate them now. I don’t want to risk that he will be one of those people who will develop COVID for a long time, who will develop Multi System Inflammatory Syndrome or will have to be hospitalized with the virus.

Siemens-Daphne: So far, more than 8,000 children of this age have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and about 100 have died, more than the influenza deaths each year. The pediatricians I am talking to recommend immediate vaccinations. For parents who are still unsure, who have questions, it is advisable to contact a trusted medical professional to help you think about it.

Simon: NPR’s Selena Simons-Duffin, thank you very much.

Siemens Daphne: Thanks.

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