COVID vaccine for kids 5 to 11 clears another federal hurdle

This story appeared in Bridge. Read more here

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the two-dose Pfizer COVID vaccine for children 5- to 11-years old Friday, setting the stage for youngsters being allowed to take the vaccine perhaps as soon as late next week.

Friday’s announcement came just days after a recommendation by an FDA advisory panel, which concluded that the benefits of protecting young children from the virus outweigh the rare side effects of the vaccine.

The pediatric version of the Pfizer vaccine is more than 90 percent effective for the age group, according to its manufacturer, and would be given in a lower dose than is given to older recipients.

While young children are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, they are not immune. More than 600 pediatric deaths have been reported nationally since the pandemic began. And in Michigan, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, a serious condition in which a COVID infection inflames organs and tissues, has been reported in 172 people under 20 years old, including 122 who were admitted to a hospital intensive-care unit, according to the latest state data.

Pfizer still must get a green light from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before it can be offered to Michigan families. The CDC advisory board meets Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. The FDA and CDC typically follow the advice of their medical advisors, but they are not bound to do so.

While some parents (and schools) eagerly await the availability of the pediatric vaccine, providers might find it a tough sell for others.

About 3 in 10 parents will “definitely not” have their child vaccinated — about twice the number (15 percent) of adults who in December 2020 said they would not be vaccinated themselves, according to an ongoing survey by KFF, a San Francisco-based health policy research organization also known as The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has preordered more than 278,000 doses of the pediatric Pfizer vaccines, which are given at one-third the adult dose and arrive with smaller needles.

“At this stage of the game and on the logistical front, things are moving pretty smoothly,” said Anne Scott, health centers operations officer for the Michigan Primary Care Association. MPCA represents a network of health centers around the state, primarily serving low-income Michiganders.

She said health centers are trying to find ways to make sure staff can set aside time to help anxious parents sort through the information about vaccines.

“We are ready. We have the ability, and we have the supply,” she said of vaccination efforts. “What we’re talking about now is how (ready) will we be available to answer questions.”

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