Children Ages 5 through 11 are Eligible to get the COVID-19 Vaccine
On October 29, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11-years old to further mitigate the spread of the virus. The emergency authorization was issued following the FDA’s detailed and transparent evaluation of the data that included input from independent advisory committee experts who voted largely in favor of making the vaccine available for younger Americans. With 28 million children between ages 5 and 11 in the U.S, medical experts hope that parents will vaccinate their children, which would benefit the community at large and likely reduce the number of COVID-19 cases. “In addition to protecting children from COVID-19, this offers another layer of protection to close family members and contacts who may have immune problems or who may be at higher risk for severe complications of the disease,” said Thomas Murray, Md, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious disease specialist.
The FDA’s emergency authorization for the vaccine came at a significant moment of the pandemic, as millions of young students have returned to in-person instruction with the ongoing Coronavirus and Delta variant. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, September was the worst month for new COVID-19 cases and deaths amongst children in the U.S. Thus, over six million children have contracted the virus since the beginning of the pandemic, and more than a million new cases were reported in September alone. The significant rise in new cases has proved an urgent need for vaccine shots for younger children, and medical experts have worked to develop a safe and effective vaccination. Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. said in a statement: “Our comprehensive and rigorous evaluation of the data pertaining to the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness should help assure parents and guardians that this vaccine meets our high standards.”
Prior to the FDA’s emergency authorization, the vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children between the ages of 5 and 11 who received the vaccine, and no serious side effects have been detected in the continuous study. Pfizer’s trial initially included 2,268 children, in which two-thirds of the participants received two doses of the vaccine three weeks apart and one-third received two injections of a saline placebo. Pfizer’s data for this group proved that the vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and participants experienced a strong mounting of antibodies. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control has stated that millions of people in the U.S. have received COVID-19 vaccines “under the most intense safety monitoring in the country’s history.” And although many have expressed concerns about the vaccine’s safety, the mRNA technology used in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines has been studied for nearly 15 years. Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, explained that the FDA is “confident in the safety, effectiveness and manufacturing data behind this authorization.” He added that “As part of our commitment to transparency around our decision-making, ….we have posted documents today supporting our decision and additional information detailing our evaluation of the data..” Therefore, several medical experts from organizations such as the FDA and CDC have proved the safety and effectiveness of the new vaccines.
To return to their normal routines, scientists have urged parents to vaccinate their children to protect themselves and others around them. Dr. Thomas Murray explained that vaccination allows children to return to their regular activities and enjoy their regular routines with less risk. He stated, “That includes indoor dining, more activities with other children, and eventually removing masks, which some schools have already begun to do. The more children we get vaccinated, the faster we can all return to normal activities.” According to the White House, at least 2.6 million kids have received vaccinations, with 1.7 million doses administered in the week of November 10th. Thus, as more children are vaccinated, we can mitigate the spread of the virus and look toward better days.