If US regulators give the go-ahead, reduced-dose pediatric pictures can begin within a few weeks.
It can bring many families one step closer to finishing distance education, the fear of viruses and repeated school dropouts and quarantines.
“My son asked about sports. ‘After you’ve been vaccinated.’ He asked to see his cousins again. ‘After you are vaccinated.’ Many of our plans are on hold, ”said Sarah Staffiere of Waterville, Maine, whose seven-year-old has a rare immune system that has forced the family to be extra careful throughout the pandemic.
“Once vaccinated, it would give our family our lives back,” she said.
Expanding vaccine availability to approximately 28 million more American children is seen as another milestone in the fight against the virus and comes amid an alarming increase in serious infections in adolescents due to the extra contagious Delta variant.
It would also push the US vaccination drive further ahead of large parts of the rest of the world at a time when many poor countries are desperately in need of vaccination.
The Food and Drug Administration must decide whether the shots are safe and effective in younger children.
Many parents and paediatricians demand protection for young people under the age of 12, the current age limit for COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States.
But there are also plenty of parents who are wary of getting shot themselves and are not in a hurry to get their children vaccinated.
Heather Miller, a mother of four from Dexter, Maine, said she will wait for follow-up examinations of the vaccine. “I’m not 100 percent against getting it in the end, but I’m falling a little bit into the ‘not right now, wait and see’ category,” she said.
Cindy Schilling, an elementary school principal in West Virginia who ranks death late as a percentage of fully vaccinated residents, said it has been a tough start to the year because so many children test positive or quarantine at various times, making it difficult for teachers and students to be on track.
Although children have a lower risk of serious illness or death than older people, COVID-19 sometimes kills them — at least 520 so far in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said their research shows that younger children should get a third of the dose now given to everyone else. After their second dose, the 5- to 11-year-old antiviral antibody levels developed as strongly as those that teens and young adults receive from regular-strength shots.
On October 26, an independent panel of experts advising the FDA will debate the evidence publicly. If the FDA approves acute use of child sizes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final decision after hearing from its external advisors.
To avoid confusion, Pfizer plans to ship lower-dose vials specifically designed for use in children.