On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted 21-0 to recommend authorizing both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines for children under five.
The Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted unanimously to approve both the Moderna vaccine for children six months to five years and the Pfizer vaccine for children ages six months to four years. Children under the age of five are the only age group not currently eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The moment has finally come for eager families. The FDA has recommended use of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the youngest of our community to be protected against COVID-19. This move leads us one step closer to being able to provide the COVID-19 vaccine series to those ages 6 months to 4 years old. The next step is for CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to convene over the weekend to provide recommendations for administration of the vaccines. Following this meeting, we will see vaccines begin to become available in our community as early as next week at pediatrician’s offices and pharmacies,” Dr. Ansorg of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department told the News-Press in an email on Thursday.
All 21 members of the advisory board voted yes in response to both of the following questions according to a report by CNN:
– “Based on the totality of scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine when administered as a 2-dose series (25 micrograms each dose) outweigh its risks for use in infants and children 6 months through 5 years of age?”
– “Based on the totality of scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine when administered as a 3-dose series (3 micrograms each dose) outweigh its risks for use in infants and children 6 months through 4 years of age?”
The FDA, which typically follows the recommendations of the advisory committee, is expected to grant emergency use authorization for the vaccines in the coming days. An advisory panel to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to vote on Saturday on whether or not to endorse the shots, according to CNN. The White House has said that shots could begin as soon as next week. The final step is for the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to sign off.
While the two vaccines use the same technology, there are differences.
“Vaccine experts noted that the shots haven’t been tested against each other, so there’s no way to tell parents if one is superior,” reported PBS News Hour.
“That is a really important point. You can’t compare the vaccines directly,’’ Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University, a former FDA vaccine chief told PBS.
During the omicron wave, there was a significant increase in hospitalizations for young children. Additionally, 442 children under the age of 4 have died during the pandemic, according to Dr. Peter Marks, FDA’s vaccine chief.
“Each child that’s lost essentially fractures a family,’’ Dr. Marks told PBS News Hour.