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CDC Panel OKs Pfizer COVID Vaccine for Younger Children

November 02, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory panel voted 14–0 to recommend the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children between 5 and 11.

The recommendation is one of the final hurdles before the vaccine can be administered to children in this age group. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to issue a final decision shortly.

At the start of today’s meeting, Dr. Walensky thanked the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for its review of the risks and benefits of the vaccine, calling it a “monumental day” during the pandemic.

While severe COVID-19 outcomes are rare in children, there are still risks, Dr. Walensky said. She also highlighted the ways the pandemic has affected children’s social, mental, and behavioral health.

“The risk is too high and too devastating to our children, and far higher than for many other diseases for which we vaccinate children,” Dr. Walensky said.

Here’s what you need to know from Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Efficacy data:  The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was about 91 percent effective at least seven days after the second dose
  • Risk for illness:  There have been more than 8,300 COVID-19 hospitalizations among children between 5 and 11. Children in this age group are at least as likely to be infected with the virus as adults. Hospitalization rates are similar to pre-pandemic levels for the flu. Masking, social distancing, and other precautions may have reduced the number of severe cases
  • Side effects:  Myocarditis and pericarditis are rare side effects of mRNA vaccines, typically found within a few days following the second dose. The observed risk is highest in males between 12 and 29. The risk of myocarditis or pericarditis after an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is lower than the risk of myocarditis associated with COVID-19 in adolescents and adults
  • Dosage:  The vaccine for younger children between 5 and 11 is given in two doses, three weeks apart. The ten microgram shot is a third of the dose given to people 12 and older. The vial for the smaller dose will have an orange cap, and the larger dose will have a purple cap

Once the vaccine is authorized under emergency use, the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine providers can begin the rollout in this age group. The widespread rollout of the vaccine is expected to begin in earnest next week, the nation’s COVID-19 Response Team said.

HAP will continue to monitor the latest COVID-19 public health developments and provide updates to members and the general public. Today’s meeting materials are available for review online.