Vaccine advisers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gathered to discuss a critical question, should young children get vaccinated against COVID-19?
As companies work toward FDA approval of vaccinating children younger than 12-years-old, some question how necessary it is since they’re at a lower risk of severe infection.
“They’re not high risk but they’re not no risk,” said Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, of Flint.
Mukkamala said risk factor is only one of the considerations when deciding to vaccinate.
“Just like the risk of dying from measles is low, but it’s never zero and we get vaccinated for that,” Mukkamala said.
He said children can also be vectors of COVID-19, unknowingly carrying the virus and putting others at risk.
“It doesn’t take much to make an 85-year-old grandparent or great-grandparent just sick enough to end up in the hospital,” Mukkamala said.
Mukkamala points out across the U.S., hundreds of children have died from COVID-19 and several thousand have been hospitalized.
“What we’re also seeing is when kids do get hospitalized, they also get sicker than adults when they end up needing hospitalization,” Mukkamala said.
A COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12 is expected to be available by fall, just in time for the school year. Members of the FDA Administration Committee believe a vaccine is needed for adolescents and children. However, as Dr. Cody Meissner at Tufts University School of Medicine states, “But I want to be sure that the risk of the vaccine is less than the risk of hospitalization.”
Considering the demonstrable effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 12 and older, there’s hope.
“We have a very well-established regulatory precedent for demonstrating effectiveness in pediatric population,” said Dr. Doran Fink, with the Office of Vaccines Research and Review at the FDA.