Coronavirus: FDA panel endorses COVID-19 vaccines for young children

An influential Food and Drug Administration panel on Wednesday endorsed recommending the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for use in children under the age of 5.

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The unanimous votes by the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee bring the U.S. one step closer to having a vaccine available for younger children.

The panel determined that the benefits of Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccination series outweigh the risks for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years and 6 months and 4 years, respectively.

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Dr. James Hildreth, a professor of internal medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, emphasized in comments after the vote on the Moderna vaccine that “tens of millions of children in this age group have been infected and have done just fine.”

“But for those parents who choose to do so, especially those parents of kids with underlying conditions, this is a choice they should have, and I’m pleased that they’ll have it,” he said.

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Dr. Jay Portnoy, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, who serves as the committee’s consumer representative, said he knew “that there are a lot of very relieved parents, almost certainly, who are listening to this right now. They’ve been waiting for a very long time.”

The FDA is not bound by Wednesday’s recommendations, though it typically follows the group’s lead. If it does, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee will then review the data and vote on whether the CDC should recommend the vaccine’s use.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 78% of the U.S. population – 259 million people – has gotten at least one dose of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 67% of Americans, or 221.7 million people, have been fully vaccinated, and over 47% of those who have been fully vaccinated have gotten at least one booster shot, CDC data shows.

Officials have confirmed more than 85.8 million COVID-19 infections and reported over 1 million deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 536.9 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, resulting in 6.3 million deaths, according to the university.