KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the holiday season quickly approaching, health leaders say that COVID-19 vaccinations for children might not be available until November.
On Tuesday, Pfizer submitted research related to the vaccinations for kids age 5-11 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But even if the process proceeds smoothly, vaccine approval and availability might not happen until right before Thanksgiving.
In the coming weeks, the drug company plans to request emergency use authorization of their vaccine for this age group.
Pfizer tested a lower dose of the shots in children, and the company said the effectiveness is comparable to teens who got regular-strength doses.
The continuing concern is that teens and young adults have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates, and that’s a trend doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City don’t want to see repeating for kids under 12.
There are currently seven children getting treatment for COVID-19 at Children’s Mercy. Two of those child patients are in the ICU.
The continued struggle highlights squashed hopes for vaccination approval before the start of the school year.
“You know, I think the CEO of Pfizer said it really well — that we want the FDA to take the time they need to make that determination. Certainly with the adult vaccines, it took about two weeks to make that EUA approval,” said Dr. Angela Myers, infectious diseases division director at Children’s Mercy.
Pfizer has not yet applied for emergency use authorization approval. Instead, doctors at the University of Kansas Health System said the company has only supplied research to the FDA while planning to file an application in the coming weeks.
“There’s no way they’re just going to rush through that information. They’re going to want to make sure they’ve have a good chance to look through it,” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer for KU Health System.
“We’re going to have to wait for the CDC advisory committee on immunization practices to make their recommendation, and then I think we’ll get that early use authorization.”
Dr. Jennifer Watts, chief emergency management medical officer at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said vaccinations of children may be administered slightly different than when vaccines were made available for adults.
“And so, first and foremost, we recommend children stay within their own medical home. Get your vaccine with your pediatrician’s office because that’s where you get most of your vaccines,” Watts said.
However, Children’s Mercy plans to restart clinics and mass vaccination events and is working with regional health departments on their own rollouts, Watts said.
In the meantime, testing for COVID-19 among children will be key to keeping elementary-aged kids safe.
“And I think that’s critical as we try to keep kids in school all year long,” Watts said.
“Even if it is the beginning of November, that still allows time for kids to get both their vaccines in before Thanksgiving because Thanksgiving’s Nov. 26,” Myers added.
Moderna is also studying its COVID-19 vaccine in elementary school-aged children. Their results are also expected later this year.