An FDA panel on Tuesday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 by a vote of 17-0, with one abstention.
However, during the hearing, many members, including the chairman, expressed concern about being given a “binary choice.” They argued data indicate the risks outweigh the benefits for healthy children while those with underlying conditions who do face significant risks from contracting COVID-19 should have access to the vaccine.
The question before the panel, the Roster of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, was: “Based on the totality of the scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine when administered as a 2-dose series (10 ug each dose, 3 weeks apart) outweigh its risks for use in children 5-11 years of age?”
After the vote, members were given the opportunity to explain their choice.
Dr. H. Cody Meissner, a professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, voted yes. However, he reiterated his belief that the vaccine should be made available largely for children with comorbidities.
Meissner, the director of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Tufts, noted that many advocates of the COVID vaccine for children have compared the shot to the MMR vaccine, for mumps, measles and rubella.
“I don’t think that is a fair comparison, because we know that vaccine is safe. We have tested that vaccine for decades, and we have a very good sense of what the adverse events are,” he said.
“We do not have that with this particular messenger RNA vaccine,” said Meissner.
He said he believes there are “some children” in the 5-11 age group “who are deserving of this vaccine, and may very well derive benefit, but there are other children who may be at increased risk of myocarditis.”
He reminded his colleagues that the rate of hospitialization for COVID in the age group is less than 10 per million. Meanwhile, the rate of myocarditis in young people, according to Israeli data, is as high as 100 to 150 per million.
During the discussion, it was acknowledged that there isn’t any relevant data on the risk of myocarditis for children, and the risk will have to be monitored as the vaccine is distributed.
The vote Tuesday sends the issue to another panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which develops recommendations on how to use vaccines.
Meissner said that if the ACIP does recommend the vaccine for young children, “hopefully it will be for children who have other risk factors.”
Before the vote, Meissner said it’s not clear that the vaccine will reduce the rate of transmission of the virus, and it probably will not reduce infection. It’s value is in reducing the risk of severe disease.
“The issue is side effects or adverse events,” he said. “I’m torn. Many parents are eager to administer the vaccine to their children because they are so frightened, perhaps overly so. On the other hand, I think we saw that approximately 68% of children hospitalized with COVID-19 have underlying comorbidities
Meissner concluded the vaccine “should be available for parents eager to get it because their child has comorbidities or they are concerned.”
He and others on the panel expressed the fear that if they voted yes, some states would mandate vaccination for schools.
“That would be an error at this time, until we get more information about the safety,” Meissner said.
See the hearing:
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Source: World Net Daily
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