Don’t expect COVID shots for kids 5-11 before Halloween

Pfizer asked the U.S. government on Thursday to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. Before vaccinations start, two key meetings have to happen.

WASHINGTON — A panel of vaccine experts will meet in early November to consider whether to recommend the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children younger than 12.

The Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices scheduled a two-day meeting for Nov. 2-3, health officials said Friday. The Pfizer topic is expected to take up part of the agenda.

The experts are anticipating the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will have decided by then whether to authorize use of the Pfizer vaccine for children between ages 5 to 11. The committee’s job is to help the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention develop recommendations for doctors and the public about which vaccines should be used and how they should given.

Currently, Pfizer vaccines are authorized only for people 12 and older.

Parents tired of worrying about classroom outbreaks and sick of telling their elementary school-age children no to sleepovers and family gatherings felt a wave of relief Thursday when Pfizer asked the U.S. government to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for youngsters ages 5 to 11.

Expanding vaccine availability to roughly 28 million more U.S. children is seen as another milestone in the fight against the virus and comes amid an alarming rise in serious infections in youngsters because of the extra-contagious delta variant.

It would also push the U.S. vaccination drive further ahead of much of the rest of the world at a time when many poor countries are desperately short of vaccine.

While kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, COVID-19 does sometimes kill children — at least 520 so far in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said their research shows younger children should get one-third of the dose now given to everyone else. After their second dose, the 5- to 11-year-olds developed virus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as those that teens and young adults get from regular-strength shots.

On Oct. 26, an independent expert panel that advises the FDA will publicly debate the evidence. If the FDA authorizes emergency use of the kid-size doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final decision, after hearing from its outside advisers.

To avoid mix-ups, Pfizer is planning to ship the lower-dose vials specially marked for use in children.

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