The United States is one step closer to allowing young children to receive COVID vaccine doses, as an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration unanimously voted to recommend both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children under the age of 6.
“I know there are a lot of relieved parents that are almost certainly listening to this right now, and they’ve been waiting for a very long time,” panel member Dr. Jay Portnoy said.
The news comes on the heels of the panel’s recommendation of the Moderna vaccine for children under the age of 18. The Pfizer vaccine had already been approved for children between the ages of 5 and 17, but the panel’s recommendation could expand access to treatments to even more young Americans.
The Moderna vaccine could be approved for children aged 6 months to 6 years old, and would be a two-dose vaccine sequence. The shots would be given four weeks apart, and would feature a half-dose of the amount of vaccine typically given to older children or to adults.
As for the Pfizer vaccine, it was studied in 1,700 children, and would be available to children up to age 5. That vaccine would require three doses, given over 11 weeks, according to officials.
“It’s a much-lower dose, and that’s why they needed to do three doses to see a good immune response,” Loyola Medicine pediatrician Dr. Nadia Qureshi said.
Officials say that the Moderna vaccine has a 53% efficacy rate in preventing serious illness in children, while the Pfizer three-dose sequencing had an 80% efficacy rate. Officials did caution that more data was needed.
“They both prevent severity of illness and hospitalization, and that is the most important thing,” Qureshi said.
The next step for both vaccines will be a recommendation from the full FDA, which could arrive in coming weeks. Finally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will need to weigh in as well.
If the shots are given the green light, then inoculations could start shortly thereafter.