ATLANTA (AP) — US health advisers have endorsed Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12 and up.
U.S. regulators on Monday expanded the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12, offering a way to protect the nation’s adolescents before they head back to school in the fall and paving the way for them to return to more normal activities.
Most COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been authorized for adults. Pfizer’s vaccine is being used in multiple countries for teens as young as 16, and Canada recently became the first to expand use to 12 and up. Parents, school administrators and public health officials elsewhere have eagerly awaited approval for the shot to be made available to more kids.
“This is a watershed moment in our ability to fight back the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president who’s also a pediatrician, told The Associated Press.
The Food and Drug Administration declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15. The agency noted there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 16 among kids given dummy shots.
More intriguing, researchers found the kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults.
The younger teens received the same vaccine dosage as adults and had the same side effects, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches that signal a revved-up immune system, especially after the second dose.
Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Health officials have said the vaccine for children is safe and effective, but getting it is a decision parents will have to make.
“I realize the idea of getting a COVID vaccine for teenagers may not seem totally comfortable for every parent out there,” says Dr. Andrew Pavia, who works at the University of Utah and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
For parents who have questions or concerns about the safety of the vaccine, Pavia says they should talk to their child’s doctor or pediatrician.
“As a mother, I want to get everything right. I don’t want to make one mistake that my children have to pay the consequences for,” says Dr. Marion Bishop, an emergency medical physician for MountainStar Healthcare.
Bishop shares with ABC4 News four questions parents may ask their child’s doctor about the vaccine.
- Side effects: “The side effects with this Pfizer vaccine aren’t any different in children than adults,” Bishop says.
- Efficacy and data: “What do we understand very best, right now, today, about this data?” she says.
- Children with underlying health conditions: “What would that mean, and would there be any important considerations?” Bishop says.
- Clearing up misconceptions
“The talk of getting the vaccine is just a wonderful opportunity to open up all kinds of conversations that I think kids are capable of,” she says.