(Bloomberg) – A group of medical experts said that the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE against covid-19, will be able to be administered in children between 12 and 15 years old safely, opening a new phase in the important effort immunization of the United States.
On Wednesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted 14-0, with a challenge, to support the emergency clearance of the two-dose vaccine after it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will now have to approve the recommendation before it becomes final.
The vaccine could be given to teens as early as Thursday, in a move long anticipated intended to pave the way for mass vaccinations of middle and high school students before the next school year begins.
“Socializing is a vitally important part of a child’s development,” said William Gruber, a trained pediatrician who is Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine research and clinical development. “Just as the vaccine has been shown to be liberating for adults, I hope the CDC will release adolescents.”
Since mid-December, the vaccine has been available in the United States for people over the age of 16. Other versions made by Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson are currently only available to those 18 and older.
Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a briefing Monday that pharmacies and other distribution centers can now “extend to the youngest age group,” as authorization is for the same dosage and formulation as It is administered to those over 16 years of age.
However, he noted that pediatricians will need to make arrangements to implement the vaccine given its ultra-cold storage requirements.
New York-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech said in March that their two-dose vaccine was 100% effective in the 12-15-year-old age group after conducting an end-stage trial. The vaccine produced antibodies that exceeded the level seen in vaccinated young adults and did not produce any new or worrisome side effects.
Nearly 60% of Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. But the nationwide campaign to get everyone vaccinated has started to slow down. As of Tuesday, the United States was applying an average of 2.2 million doses a day, up from 3.37 million about three weeks ago.
Now, the next stage of the campaign is ready to begin. The United States has an estimated 17 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, representing 5.3% of the country’s population.
The covid-19 pandemic led to more adolescent hospitalizations than the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, according to Sara Oliver of the ACIP Covid-19 Vaccine Working Group. The virus was estimated to be one of the top ten causes of death among this age group in 2020, based on data from the previous year.
“There is a misperception that covid does not affect children at all,” Lee Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in an interview. “Fortunately, the death of children has been a rare event, but we are following children who have long-lasting symptoms and some with cardiac symptoms after being infected.”
During the ACIP meeting, CDC suggested a multi-pronged approach to vaccine implementation designed to improve access and equity. Those at the forefront of vaccination campaigns should use existing provider networks, they said, including mass vaccination sites and public health facilities, while turning to both pediatric providers and family physicians.
Original Note: CDC Advisers Back Use of Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine in Adolescents
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