Pfizer and BioNTech, the two companies that made one of the most widely used coronavirus vaccines in the United States, will soon announce that they will seek approval from regulators from around the world to have their shots be used to protect children ages 5 and older.
The statement from BioNTech officials, made in interviews with the German publication Der Spiegel, will be welcome news for many parents in the U.S., as cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed in recent weeks, particularly for children as they return to in-person schooling.
The companies plan to share results from studies on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 “in the coming weeks,” BioNTech co-founder and chief medical officer Ozlem Tureci said.
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“Things are looking good, everything is going according to plan,” added the company’s chief executive Ugur Sahin.
The results of the studies will still have to be carefully examined by regulators in various agencies in separate governments around the globe. he Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. would have to grant emergency use authorization for the vaccine in children between those ages, similar to how it did this past spring for children between the ages 12 and 15.
Emergency use authorization could come as soon as October, former FDA head and Pfizer board member Scott Gottlieb said last month, when the companies “could be in a position” to file an application to that agency. It’s possible, however, that the administration of vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11 years of age might not come until later in the fall or perhaps even during the winter.
The news of the possibility of the vaccine for kids ages 5-11 coming sooner rather than later arrives as childhood diagnoses of COVID have reached their highest point in the U.S. since the pandemic started. Children continue to have the lowest hospitalization rates among all age groups, but their numbers are climbing fast.
In August, there were around 30,000 hospitalizations for children due to coronavirus. More than 500,000 new diagnoses were also identified in kids last month, a trend that appears to be going in the wrong direction as time goes on.
Indeed, in just the first week of September, more than 250,000 new COVID diagnoses were identified in children in the U.S. — which means that children now account for more than one in four new coronavirus cases being discovered in the country each day.
While parents of children under the age of 12 may have to wait a bit longer before emergency use authorization of any vaccine happens, experts maintain there are still ways kids can be protected when they head back to the classrooms. The best way to do so is to wear masks when they’re in school, a method that has been proven through many studies to help reduce the spread of the virus. Beyond mask use, the best way to protect children who are attending in-person school is to increase the vaccination levels in the broader communities that surround them.
“The way you protect children who, because of their age, cannot get vaccinated yet is to surround the children — be it friends, family, schoolteachers, personnel in the school — surround the children with vaccinated people,” Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and health advisor to President Joe Biden, said in a recent interview.