|Parents may soon have a new tool for protecting children as young as 5 years old from COVID-19. Earlier this week, an advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended authorization of a kid-sized dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
Compared with the Pfizer vaccine for teens and adults, this pediatric vaccine will be a smaller dose and given with a smaller needle. The lower dose also seems to produce fewer and milder side effects in kids, while still creating a strong immune response.
There are still several steps that must be taken before kids aged 5-11 can get vaccinated. Two federal agencies must weigh in before any vaccinations can begin - the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
One way to look at the two agency roles is this - the FDA controls the "what," determining which products get approved based on the results of clinical trials. Then the CDC controls the "who," determining exactly which segment of the population should receive the product and on what timeline.
Here is how the approval process works:
- First, an FDA panel must vote to recommend emergency use authorization of the pediatric vaccine. This occurred on Tuesday, October 26.
- Next, FDA regulators can authorize the vaccine for emergency use if they agree with the panel - as they typically do. This usually occurs within days of the panel's vote.
- Then, a panel of outside experts for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will consider the authorization and make a recommendation. This panel is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 2nd and 3rd. The panel could vote to endorse the vaccine for all children aged 5-11, for example, or could choose to endorse vaccination only for specific subgroups, like children with underlying health concerns.
- Then, the CDC director will make an official recommendation. She can agree with the panel's vote or change it, but no vaccinations can be given until the CDC director sets the vaccine policy.
While it's widely expected that the pediatric vaccine will be recommended for kids soon - maybe as early as next week - it won't start going into arms right away. It will take some time to ship the vaccine from Pfizer to health facilities and doctor's offices, and for those healthcare providers to update inventory databases and immunization forms.
Check our website at covid19.gachd.org for the latest information about pediatric vaccination in the Coastal Health District. That's where we'll post announcements about our vaccine rollout. You may also want to check with your child's pediatrician to see what plans they have for vaccinating patients.