Some local medical experts are responding positively to data from a trial showing that the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe in children ages 5 to 11.
“We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population, subject to regulatory authorization, especially as we track the spread of the delta variant and the substantial threat it poses to children,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
“Since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 2405 in the U.S. — underscoring the public health need for vaccination.”
Dr. Delana Wardlaw, a family medicine doctor with Temple Physicians, welcomed the news.
“This is highly anticipated, great news because of what we’ve seen with the delta variant. It has had a significant impact on the number of children that we are seeing contract the coronavirus and that creates some level of concern amongst parents, particularly as we are sending our children back to school and half of the school-aged children are not eligible to receive the vaccine just yet,” she said.
“Of course once the FDA reviews the information and that information is presented to the CDC and we get the official recommendation, I think it will be fantastic.”
She acknowledged that some people may have reservations about giving children a COVID-19 vaccine, even though children have been receiving a variety of vaccines in order to attend school.
“This vaccine has gone through even more rigorous safety protocols and procedures to make sure that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Wardlaw said.
“We’re reminding people that vaccines are tried and true. This is not a new process that just started with COVID. Vaccines have been proven to be very effective at helping us to eradicate or decrease the transmission of many diseases that could have been catastrophic.”
The Pfizer and BioNTech results are the first from a pivotal trial of any COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12 years of age. The trial found that in participants 5 to 11 years of age, the vaccine was safe, was well tolerated and showed robust neutralizing antibody responses. The companies plan to submit the data to the FDA.
This trial used a smaller vaccine dosage, 10 micrograms, rather than the 30-microgram dose used for people 12 and older. The dosage was selected as the preferred dose for safety and effectiveness in young children. Trials for children under 5 are slated for later this year.
“Although we haven’t seen the data, Pfizer’s summary sounds promising as an important step toward protecting children and those who come in contact with children against COVID-19,” said Dr. Jeffrey S. Gerber, an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
He referred to the possibility of vaccinating children as a “game changer.”
“Nothing is perfect — including COVID vaccines — but they are the most important line of defense,” Gerber said.
“Because kids are now a larger proportion of non-immune individuals, they have become a larger proportion of those infected. It would not only directly protect the kids but also further reduce the number of people in whom virus can spread. This helps us all.”
“Any news about getting our children vaccinated against COVID-19 is potentially great news,” acting Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said in a statement.
“We are eagerly awaiting guidance from the FDA and CDC on how and when we can begin vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 years old. Until we get that guidance, these children are not eligible to be vaccinated. In the meantime, the best way to protect unvaccinated children is to make sure that everyone around them aged 12 and older is fully vaccinated.”