The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved Children between ages 5 to 11 as eligible to take the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday night during a professional panel’s recommendation.
Vaccination can start as soon as this week for children in this age group since health providers are able to begin it as soon as possible, the CDC said in a release.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last week for children 5 to 11, and now the CDC recommends it for those ages as well.
According to a statement released Tuesday night by Joe Biden, this is “a turning point in our battle against COVID-19.”
Biden administration adviser Jeffrey Zients said the government ordered enough vaccines to cater for all 28 million children in this age range in America. During the week of Nov. 8, he announced that the administration’s distribution program will be fully operational.
A CDC advisory committee on vaccines and the immune system concluded that the vaccines are associated with some risks but that their benefits are greater. This is a group of vaccine and immune system experts from medical schools and universities nationwide composed of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
“We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a Tuesday press release.
“As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.”
In addition to the 100 children’s hospitals and community clinics, vaccines will be available at schools, pharmacies, and pediatricians. Free shots will be provided, at a dose of one-third that of the adult vaccine, and they will be administered three weeks apart.
There were a number of professional groups that expressed support for childhood vaccination, on Tuesday, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
The vaccine maker, Pfizer-BioNTech, observed no serious side effects after several small trials.
As committee members acknowledged, there is a chance that some side effects will emerge after the shots have been administered to millions of children, as rare side effects not observed in adult clinical trials emerged when widespread vaccinations were given.
Moreso, Dr. Matthew Daley, chair of the committee and senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, said that “we need to acknowledge the unknown.”
In his view, waiting to vaccinate kids would pose a greater risk. “If we wait, we miss the chance to prevent many cases of COVID-19 in this age group, and that includes some very severe cases.”
The CDC estimates vaccines will prevent 600,000 infections including possible hospitalizations and a few deaths in this age group by March.
If 1 million children were fully vaccinated, the CDC estimated about 57,000 cases of COVID-19 and about 200 hospitalizations could be prevented.
“The data that was presented really speaks volumes in terms of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” explained Dr. Pablo Sánchez, a professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
“Children are dying, and we can reduce hospitalization and death with this safe and effective vaccine that will benefit the community,” Dr. Oliver Brooks, chief medical officer at Watts HealthCare Corporation, said.
Pediatricians and committee members have both been recommended to parents who have concerns about vaccinations.
Young men who had received the vaccine have been seen to suffer from a swelling of the heart, called myocarditis.
The government statistics estimate that out of every million vaccinated, precisely 16- and 17-year-old boys, 69 of them have the disease, compared to two men out of every million of their age group. There have been no deaths, and most cases appear to be mild without lasting effects.
The side effect is expected to be even rarer in children, said pediatric cardiologist Matthew Oster of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Until COVID-19, myocarditis was mostly a problem for adolescents and young men, Oster told the NIH committee, probably due to their high testosterone levels. Typically, children under the age of 12 have low testosterone levels, he said.
Myocarditis caused by infection with COVID-19 is more severe than swelling seen after vaccination, he said.
Most children who receive the shot will feel side effects within 48 hours of receiving it, just as adults and teens do. Studies conducted in humans have reported fatigue, headaches, joint pain, pain at the injection site, vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea as the most common side effects.
Children are monitored by the CDC through several different systems, in case a serious reaction occurs due to the vaccine. In one, patients report their symptoms, in another doctors report symptoms, and two others collect hospital data, according to Dr. Tom Shimabukuro of the CDC.
There is a separate vaccine surveillance system at the Food and Drug Administration, just as there is one at the Department of Defense, which identified myocarditis among service members as an early risk factor.
In a recent FDA announcement, vaccines were approved for use in this age group following approval by an independent panel of vaccine experts that determined the benefits surpassed the risks.
In the United States, only Pfizer-BioNTech has conducted studies in minors on the three vaccines available to adults. In an announcement Sunday, Moderna said the FDA has requested more information about its shots for adolescents, which will probably delay their approval until January.
In terms of its trials involving children and adolescents, Johnson & Johnson is even further behind.
Vaccines are typically first tested on adults, then on younger children after they prove safe. Even younger children, as young as six months, are being studied by Pfizer-BioNTech.
The vaccine is authorized only for emergency use in children and younger adolescents, despite being fully approved for adults and older teens. After the collaborating companies have longer-term data and more details about manufacturing next year, they will probably request full authorization for these age groups.
Children are likely less vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections than adolescents and adults, so vaccines are more controversial in children.
Nonetheless, COVID-19 has killed 94 children ages 5-11 a year in the U.S. and more than 8,300 children have been hospitalized since the pandemic began.
COVID-19 infections can cause long-lasting symptoms in children aged 5 to 11 – such as fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating despite low rates of infection compared to adults.
The study proved that COVID-19 can be contracted by children regardless of their age.
In a study of approximately 2,500 children, Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine prevented more than 90% of infections in children aged 5-11.
It remains unclear whether the vaccines are effective or safe, given the limited number of children that have taken them so far. The vaccine is not known for how long it will last or whether booster shots will be required.
According to CDC, in September during the peak of the last wave, nine children would have needed to be immunized against COVID-19, and only about 26 would be needed today. The number of children in need of protection six weeks ago was approximately 2,200 and about 8,200 recently.
These children are more likely to fall victim to a serious COVID-19 infection if they are immunocompromised or have a health issue such as obesity or metabolic disease. According to the CDC, the majority of children admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 had existing conditions, while a third of them were healthy before.
It is recommended that all children receive vaccinations, regardless of their medical conditions.
Children with cancer-fighting parents will benefit from vaccination, according to Dr. Gwen Nichols, chief medical officer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Vaccination will enable “children to interact with more freedom, including with their parents and grandparents,” she said.
“This is particularly important for immunosuppressed patients, including those with blood cancers who have been in an impossible situation with their younger children returning to school in-person.”
Three times more black children are hospitalized than white children, according to data.
In America, according to data submitted to the committee, about 38% of children have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
If your child already had had the COVID-19 vaccine, they will have some protection, but they should still receive the shots, as recommended, primarily because vaccinations provide more reliable protection against the infection.
Last week, FDA researchers presented findings of an infection analysis to a different advisory committee and concluded that vaccination offers more benefits than risks for children. A report concluded that if the number of cases of COVID-19 is exceptionally low, the benefits of vaccination can be questionable.
Two weeks after the second vaccination, the vaccines will take about five weeks to reach their full effectiveness, so parents would not be able to protect their children if an outbreak or a new variant appeared suddenly.
Children have been suffering significantly more from COVID-19 than from other childhood illnesses, according to the CDC. The COVID-19 outbreaks resulted in at least three times the number of hospitalizations and deaths compared to hepatitis A, meningococcal disease, varicella, rubella, and rotavirus prior to vaccine introduction.
Professor Kathryn Poehling, a pediatrician at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was touched by the information to strongly support the COVID-19 vaccination for elementary school students.
“We can now make these COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths vaccine-preventable,” she said.