The White House told Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to start preparing the state to vaccinate children age 5 and older by early November should the FDA clear Pfizer's COVID vaccine for that age group in coming weeks, an official said.
The Biden administration has purchased 65 million pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which NBC News reported would be enough to vaccinate the estimated 28 million children who would be eligible under anticipated FDA approval, according to a Health and Human Services official.
Pfizer and BioNTech said earlier this month that they had submitted an emergency request for authorization for those ages 5 to 11, and an FDA advisory committee plans to meet to discuss the request on Oct. 26. The vaccine doses for the youngest age group won’t be interchangeable with those used in adults because it has a different dosage and dilution requirement.
Pfizer's vaccine is currently the only vaccine authorized for emergency use in children as young as 12. Both Moderna and J&J's vaccines can only be used on people 18 and older.
For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose -- a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press.
The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects -- such as sore arms, fever or achiness -- that teens experience, he said.
Moderna also is studying its shots in elementary school-aged children. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger tots as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said in August that her office was seeing more COVID cases among children, but that they are generally following the pattern of previous variants of the virus, with children generally not seeing severe health outcomes when they do get sick.
“They’re seeing more younger people (being infected), but that’s because kids haven’t had the opportunity yet to be vaccinated. We are seeing more children sick just because it is more contagious,” Arwady said. “The good news is, just like in the other types of COVID, the huge majority of the time, they have a relatively minor case.”
Dr. Abigail Hodges of Oak Park Pediatrics said in August that while the delta variant is more contagious than previous strains of the virus, it generally doesn’t cause severe health outcomes like hospitalizations and death at any higher rate than previous variants.
“We are seeing more kids getting COVID. We’re seeing a lot more positives at my office, but they’re not more sick than they were before,” she said.