The country’s top infectious disease expert believes COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 could become available as early as November.
"If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval, and the recommendation from the CDC, it's entirely possible, if not very likely, that vaccines will be available for children from five to 11 within the first week or two of November," Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC's "This Week" Sunday.
Federal health regulators said late last week that kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appear highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections in elementary school children and caused no unexpected safety issues, as the U.S. weighs beginning vaccinations in youngsters.
The Food and Drug Administration posted its analysis of Pfizer’s data ahead of a public meeting this week to debate whether the shots are ready for the nation’s roughly 28 million children ages 5 to 11. The agency will ask a panel of outside vaccine experts to vote on that question.
If the FDA authorizes the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make additional recommendations on who should receive them the first week of November.
The FDA review found no new or unexpected side effects. Those that did occur mostly consisted of sore arms, fever or achiness.
However, FDA scientists noted that the study wasn’t large enough to detect extremely rare side effects, including myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second dose.
The Biden administration has purchased enough kid-size doses — in special orange-capped vials to distinguish them from adult vaccine — for the nation’s 5- to 11-year-olds. If the vaccine is cleared, millions of doses will be promptly shipped around the country, along with kid-size needles.
While children run a lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, COVID-19 has killed more than 630 Americans 18 and under, according to the CDC. Nearly 6.2 million children have been infected with the coronavirus, more than 1.1 million in the last six weeks as the delta variant surged, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
A second U.S. vaccine maker, Moderna, also is studying its shots in elementary school-aged children. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger tots as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.