COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 could be available as soon as the end of October, two experts said Sunday. Some senior officials of the Biden administration have said approval for that age group was unlikely before the end of the year.
At the moment, only children ages 12 and older qualify for vaccination. An earlier approval for younger children would be good news for parents, many of whom are anxious about classroom safety as schools reopen.
The Food and Drug Administration recently warned parents against trying to get younger children vaccinated before an official recommendation, saying there are unanswered questions about dosing and immunity in this age group.
Getting the green light for younger children will require careful and expeditious review of the clinical data, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the FDA who sits on the board of Pfizer, one of the vaccine makers, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Still, “in a best-case scenario,” the Pfizer vaccine could be ready by Halloween, or Oct. 31, for younger children. “I have confidence in Pfizer in terms of the data that they’ve collected,” Gottlieb said.
The hope of fall approval comes after two of the nation’s top public health officials — Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s chief pandemic adviser — backed away from that goal last month, instead seeing the step as more likely in the winter.
On “Face the Nation,” Dr. James Versalovic, interim pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital, said he agreed with Gottlieb on the feasibility of an October approval. “We’re doing everything we can now to move these trials ahead,” he said.
Both Pfizer and Moderna are gathering data on the safety, correct dose and effectiveness of the vaccines in children. Compared with adults, children diagnosed with COVID are more likely to have mild symptoms or none at all. Children are also far less likely to develop severe illness, be hospitalized or die from the disease.
But hospitalizations of children are rising as the more contagious delta variant spreads. Versalovic said that he and his colleagues are “seeing record numbers” of infected children, as are physicians nationally.
“We continue to be on a high plateau” and may yet hit “another peak,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.