Pfizer's COVID Vaccine Officially Authorized for Use in Children Ages 5 to 11 After CDC Approval

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine becomes the first in the country available to children under 12

Staff are seen preparing Pfizer vaccine doses inside the Melbourne Showgrounds COVID-19 Vaccination Centre on July 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia
A dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty

The Centers for Disease Control approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children 5 through 11 on Tuesday, the final step in its authorization.

The agency's decision included input from independent advisory committee experts who unanimously agreed to making the vaccine available to this age group. The group met five days after an independent panel from the Food and Drug Administration "overwhelmingly voted in favor" of allowing the vaccine for use in kids 5 to 11, based on clinical trials showing that it was 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic illness.

This age group will receive two smaller dose of the vaccine — 10 micrograms compared to 30 for people aged 12 and up — using smaller needles, given 21 days apart. White House officials said that they expect the vaccine to be available at pediatrician offices, pharmacies, schools and children's hospitals by the week of Nov. 8.

Pfizer's vaccine was authorized for children 12 through 15 years of age in May of this year. This decision now makes Pfizer's the first vaccine in the country available to children under 12.

The statement from the FDA stipulated that the vaccine is almost 91 percent effective in kids 5 through 11, creating an immune response comparable to those 16 through 25.

The FDA also said that in an "ongoing study" looking at the safety of the vaccine in approximately 3,100 children, there have been no known side effects in the younger age bracket.

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The FDA said Friday that children 5 through 11 make up 39 percent of COVID-19 cases in individuals younger than 18 years of age, with roughly 8,300 kids being admitted to the hospital, according to the CDC.

Of those, 691 COVID-related deaths have been reported in the U.S. in children under 18, with 146 deaths reported in the 5 through 11 age group.

"I don't really have any concern, as a physician and an immunologist" about the safety of the Pfizer vaccine in children," the White House's chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN Friday. "I think it would be a good idea to vaccinate the children" when it becomes available.

The Biden administration said last week that as soon as the vaccine was approved for use by children, they would make it available at more than 25,000 pediatrician offices and primary care facilities, more than 100 children's hospitals as well as at pharmacies and schools.

The White House said that they have purchased enough vaccine doses to inoculate the 28 million kids between 5 and 11 years old in the U.S.

"Kids have different needs than adults and our operational planning is geared to meet those specific needs, including by offering vaccinations in settings that parents and kids are familiar with and trust," White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said on Oct. 20.

Though children are at a lower risk of severe disease and hospitalization from COVID-19, they can still get sick and pass the virus on to others. More children have been hospitalized since the emergence of the delta variant, and as of this month, children are testing positive for COVID-19 at a disproportionately high rate. During the week of Oct. 14, those 18 and younger accounted for 25.5 percent of all cases in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, despite making up just 22.2 percent of the total population.

Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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