FDA okays emergency use

Advisors to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending Pfizer’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine be made available to children 5 to 11 years old.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend the smaller-dose vaccine series to the younger group. CDC leaders will use the recommendation to make a final determination, which is expected to be announced in the near future.

Tuesday’s 14-0 vote followed a more than six-hour meeting of the ACIP. Members of the committee include doctors and medical school professors from throughout the country.

During the explanation of their votes, committee members noted confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing severe illness from COVID-19 in the 5 to 11 age group. As it stands, only those 12 and older are authorized to get a Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, said she has vaccinated her of-age kids and she wouldn’t recommend it if she didn’t feel it was safe. She reiterated that many members of the committee are parents who have vaccinated their children and plan to do so with the younger kids when able.

Dr. Beth Bell, global clinical professor for the University of Washington, said Tuesday’s vote was “a way of telling the American public that based on our expertise and the information we have, we’re all enthusiastic” about the vaccine. Bell also called parents’ concerns and questions “legitimate” and encouraged them to talk to their doctors, visit the CDC website and “do what they need to do to feel comfortable with their decision.”

Pfizer has recommended that children 5 to 11 years old receive two 10-microgram doses of its vaccine, administered three weeks apart. That’s the same timeframe as for older kids and adults, but one-third the size of each dose.

Last week, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to Pfizer’s vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old. The EUA came after its own committee of independent medical experts determined that the shot’s benefits outweighed its potential risks.

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