UPDATE: On May 10, the FDA officially approved the Pfizer COVID vaccine for kids between the ages of 12-15.
The original story follows.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to authorize the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be used in kids aged 12-15, allowing another group of Americans the opportunity to be inoculated. According to the New York Times, the FDA might approve it as early as the week of May 10.
The move comes after Pfizer announced results from its trial in adolescents showing comparative effectiveness to how it performs for adults with about a 95% efficacy rate. It’s seen by health experts as a key step in trying to move toward—if not toward a herd immunity that may not now be attainable but at least to a significant reduction in hospitalizations and deaths.
“The expansion would be a major development in the country’s vaccination campaign and welcome news to some parents who are anxious to protect their children during summer activities and before the start of the next school year,” the Times noted. “It also poses another challenge to policymakers who are struggling to vaccinate a large percentage of adults hesitant to get the shot. Many more could refuse to inoculate their children.”
“What I’m hearing right now is support for the measure,” said Dr. Shelly McDonald-Pinkett, chief medical officer of Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., in USA Today’s coverage of the anticipated approval. “Parents want their children to be in school and they want them to be protected.”
There are some, however, who feel that the relatively mild effects of COVID-19 for kids raise the question of whether those vaccines, like Pfizer and Moderna, should instead be exported to adults in nations experiencing greater disease outbreaks or vaccine shortages.
“I do think we need to have a national and global conversation about the ethics of our vaccinating kids, who are low risk for serious complications from the virus, when there aren’t enough vaccines in the world to protect high-risk adults from dying,” Jennifer B. Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the New York Times.
Another Johns Hopkins-aligned expert, Dr. Rupali J. Limaye, who studies vaccine use and hesitancy, argued, “From an ethical perspective, we should not be prioritizing people like them over people in countries like India.”
But the FDA’s move might help middle school and high school administrators move those students—and their working parents—back toward greater normalcy.