Vaccinations for children against COVID-19 become more of a reality after a Food and Drug Administration panel backed Pfizer’s new shot on Tuesday, October 26th – a low-dose COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to eleven.

The FDA panel voted unanimously (sans one abstaining voter) that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 in children outweigh potential hazards. This took into account both the fact that children are less likely to get severe COVID-19 and the very minor risk of cardiac side effects seen in teens and young adults on the full dose.

“This is an age group that deserves and should have the same opportunity to be vaccinated as every other age,” said panel member Dr. Amanda Cohn of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the panel’s recommendation to approve these vaccinations for children is a strong influence, the FDA is not bound by it. However, on October 29th, the FDA announced that it had chosen to authorize Phizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11. Next up, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will decide if it will recommend the vaccine for the age group, and for which portions of the population. The committee will meet on Tuesday, November 2nd to make its decision.

While children have been, fortunately, under-represented in the 3.1 million hospitalizations and 738,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States, the 5-11 age group has seen over 8,000 hospitalizations. More than 2,700 have required intensive care, and nearly 100 children have died.

Perhaps more crucially, unvaccinated children are indicated as a vector to bring the disease to higher-risk individuals, like parents or grandparents with chronic conditions that make their own vaccine doses less effective.

The FDA panel stressed that they are not recommending a vaccine mandate for young children, which is beyond the purview of the FDA in any case. This was in response to the thousands of emails the panelists received by anti-vaccination individuals opposing the approval of the shot.

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