Giving COVID-19 vaccine to kids ‘will help us get the pandemic under control,’ Utah pediatrician says

Utah children ages 5 to 11 could receive the vaccine as early as Nov. 8, following the FDA panel’s advisory ruling Tuesday.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune) A vial containing the Pfizer version of the COVID-19 vaccine, released July 21, 2021 at a walk-in vaccination clinic at the South Davis Senior Activity Center. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel approved the use of Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2021.

| October 27, 2021, 12:48 PM

Thousands of Utah children between the ages of 5 and 11 could receive the COVID-19 vaccine as early as Nov. 8, a leading pediatrician said Tuesday — after a federal advisory board approved such a vaccine for young children.

“If we can get a significant proportion of children in this age group vaccinated, that will help us control the pandemic,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the pediatric infectious diseases division at the University of Utah Health and director of the hospital. epidemiology at the Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

Pavia noted that “the most important thing is the benefit to the children themselves. The next most important thing is the benefits to families by protecting children — because what we’re very concerned about is transmission to that mother with cancer, or that grandparent who is on an immunosuppressant.”

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee Tuesday approved the pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech version of the COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11. The panel voted unanimously, with one member abstaining, that the vaccine’s benefits for preventing COVID-19 in that age group outweigh its potential risks — including a heart-related side effect that is very rare in teens and young adults despite their use. of a much higher shot dose.

The FDA is not bound by the panel’s advice, but is expected to make its own decision within days.

If the FDA approves the doses for children, there is yet another step: Next week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must decide whether to recommend the injections and which young people should receive them.

“If you lived in a state where 80% of the people are vaccinated, where masks are used 100% in all schools, your child would be at relatively modest risk of getting COVID, and watching and waiting could be a reasonable solution. to be. strategy,” said Pavia. “Unfortunately we don’t live there.”

In Utah, according to UDOH statistics, 67.3% of eligible Utahns, age 12 or older, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — and mask requirements in schools have been met with protests against them and even legislation to introduce a statewide mandate.

“If I had a child living in this age group in Utah who had never been infected with COVID before, I would have them vaccinated the first day I could,” he said.

Pavia dismissed the myth “which is absolutely, 100% false” that children are not seriously affected by COVID-19. “They’re much less likely than older adults to die or be hospitalized, but they’ve been hit pretty hard,” Pavia said, pointing out that some 600 Utah children will be hospitalized for COVID by 2021. -19.

[Read more: ‘It’s real’: Utah doctors and nurses talk about treating kids sick and dying from COVID-19]

“Fortunately, deaths are relatively rare,” Pavia said, noting that about 720 children nationwide have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. (In Utah, only one child between the ages of 1 and 14 has died from COVID-19: a boy from Salt Lake County who died in March 2021.)

There are about 365,000 Utah children ages 5 to 11 who are eligible for the vaccine — one of the largest new eligibility groups the state has seen since the vaccine first became available, the Utah Department of Health said in a statement Tuesday. .

Pavia said he expects the CDC advisory panel to make its recommendations on Nov. 3, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will give its approval shortly after. So it’s likely, Pavia said, that Utah kids could be getting a gun as early as Nov. 8.

Healthcare providers need to be ready. UDOH has announced it has ordered 109,000 pediatric doses of Pfizer, which will be shipped statewide from Friday to suppliers — local health departments, mass vaccination sites, pharmacies and doctor’s offices (including pediatricians), the department said. From early November, more doses will be available to order each week.

The state health department is warning health care providers to be patient and not deliver the doses until the CDC’s final recommendation is announced.

The doses for children are 10 micrograms each, compared to the 30 micrograms given for an adult dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer will distribute the children’s version in vials with an orange cap to differentiate them from the adult version, which has a purple cap.

The complete Pfizer vaccine has received full FDA approval for adults and is available under emergency use rules for children 12 years and older. The vaccine for younger children would also fall under those emergency rules.

Moderna Inc. announced Monday that it had “positive interim data” of “a robust neutralizing antibody response” in its trials for its vaccine in children ages 6 to 11. The company said it would soon submit its data to the FDA and regulators in other countries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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