The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could soon authorize a Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for young children, experts said — a development that offers hope in the midst of a dangerous time in the pandemic for kids, who account for a quarter of all cases reported last week.
“It is conceivable that by Halloween, we could see shots going into arms, but it’s going to take a number of weeks for that process to work its way through,” Dr. James Hildreth, a vaccine adviser to the FDA, told CNN’s Don Lemon Monday.
That process is happening as the second highest total of new cases in children was reported last week and cases among that group continue to rise exponentially, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics published Monday.
And as cases spread, hospitalization rates are high. An average of 311 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 every day over the past week, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Pittsburgh, officials at UPMC Children’s Hospital said they are seeing a “historic” number of children coming to the Emergency Department. A tent was set up outside the emergency room Friday to help accommodate more patients, the hospital said in a social media post.
Currently, the youngest Americans eligible for vaccination are 12 year olds, and the vaccination rate of adolescents is still inching toward the halfway mark, according to a CNN analysis of data from the CDC.
Where things stand now: Trials are currently underway for younger children, and Pfizer/BioNTech announced in a news release Monday that a Phase 2 of 3 trial showed their two-dose vaccine was safe and generated a “robust” antibody response in children 5 to 11.
The expansion of vaccine access would be important both for protecting children and for ending the hold the virus has on the US for everyone, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Peter Hotez said.
“Ultimately, if we’re serious about halting this epidemic in the United States, we need 85-90% of the US population vaccinated,” Hotez said. “That means all of the adults, all of the adolescents and large numbers of young kids.”
But there is still a big challenge ahead: getting the doses into kid’s arms, CNN medical analyst Dr. Johnathan Reiner said.