CDC Advisers Approve Smaller-Dose COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11


Kids got the nod to roll up their sleeves for a COVID jab on Tuesday, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers voted unanimously to authorize smaller-dosed Pfizer shots for children aged 5 to 11.

The 14-0 vote of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which was expected to be signed off on by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, means that inoculations can begin as soon as Wednesday. It does not mandate inoculation, but simply declares it safe, as one ACIP member noted after voting.

Approval had long been anticipated, and medical professionals have encouraged it as the delta variant encroached on younger populations once thought to be immune to the coronavirus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots, which are one-third the size of those given to adults, for emergency use last week.

Walensky opened Tuesday’s 11 a.m. meeting with a strong plea for approval.

“We have been asking when we will be able to expand this protection to our younger children,” she told the committee. “As you will all be aware, in this most recent delta wave, we saw pediatric admission rates higher than they had been in any previous wave of the pandemic, reaching a rate of 25 hospitalizations per 100,000 per year in children between the ages of 5 to 11.”

She also urged them to “keep in mind the specific risks to children from this virus and the pandemic, and to put that risk into context of other vaccine-preventable diseases,” according to CNN.

Since the pandemic began early last year, 1.9 million children in that age group have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, 8,300 of them have been hospitalized, and 94 have died, the presenters said. In addition 2,316 have come down with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which is when body parts including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs become inflamed, as the CDC defines it.

After several hours of presentations about trials, clinical results and other information from specialists in the field, pediatric groups voiced their support for approval. Representatives of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and other groups voiced support for the measure.

They pointed out the benefits beyond protecting children from contracting COVID itself. Vaccinating kids will enable them to return to school anxiety-free; will protect more vulnerable family members; will reduce community transmission, and will likely prevent cases of post-COVID conditions, hospitalization and death.

CDC Work Group Chair Dr. Matthew F. Daley knows there is some resistance.

“We must recognize that there are parents out there with concerns,” he said, noting that given the plethora of misinformation out there, “It’s understandable that you have questions and concerns.”

Other panel members emphasized the same, noting that the recommendation was meant to reassure the public that the vaccines have been fully vetted and that they were confident in giving them to their own children and grandchildren.

White House coronavirus czar Jeff Zients said Monday that the government has enough of the Pfizer vaccine for all 28 million children in the 5-11 age group. The regimen is the same as for adults and older children, two shots three weeks apart.

The White House has already started mobilizing doses so that they’re poised to be administered at pediatricians’ offices, clinics and pharmacies.