Covid vaccines for young children are on the way, and they’re a potential game changer for families, schools and caregivers – but they won’t mean the end of the pandemic.
Not yet anyway.
On Tuesday, Pfizer submitted clinical trial data to the Food and Drug Administration for its Covid vaccine in children aged 5 to 11. Next, the drug manufacturer will need to make a formal request for emergency use authorization – which, according to the the Wall Street newspaper, may not arrive until mid-October.
This schedule would make the shots available for children around the end of October or early November.
Moderna and Johnson & johnson are still testing their injections for young children in the United States, Moderna should submit its data to the FDA first. Last week, acting FDA commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock said her agency would act “as quickly as possible” to review all data on the three vaccines.
About 28 million Americans are between 5 and 11 years old. Making them eligible for Covid vaccines will allow children to attend school in person more safely, while reducing stress levels for exhausted parents.
It will also be a positive development for the rest of the country, increasing the country’s overall immunization rates and bringing the United States closer to “normal” and the end of the pandemic.
It just won’t be the last step.
At the start of the pandemic, immunization of children seemed to be the key to achieving collective immunity, where a virus stops circulating because enough people have vaccine protection or natural immunity.
Now, realistically, the country might never achieve collective immunity.
About 56% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against Covid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while experts initially suggested that herd immunity would occur when 60-70% of the population were immune, that estimate rose to 85-90% after the delta variant of Covid took over this summer.
Thursday, a new Kaiser Family Foundation investigation found that only about a third of parents would immunize their young children immediately, once a vaccine is cleared. And even if each of those 28 million American children were immunized immediately, the country’s overall immunization percentage would only increase to 64%.
“The fact that the delta variant has become predominant and that it is so much more transmissible is the last factor that really makes herd immunity very, very difficult to achieve,” says Dr Flor Munoz, associate professor of pediatrics and virology molecular and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, which leads the Pfizer pediatric vaccine trial at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.
How childhood immunizations can still be a major victory against Covid
Yet vaccinating more people – including children – is crucial to managing the pandemic and making Covid a less dangerous threat.
Former FDA commissioner and current Pfizer board member Dr Scott Gottlieb told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday that given how long Covid has stayed, it will eventually become a “endemic virus “that circulates seasonally in the American population, much like the flu.
Getting to this point would be a huge success, and vaccinations are essential to get there.
With more people immune to the virus, symptoms would be less severe, perhaps up to a sniffle and cough, and fewer people would be hospitalized or seriously ill. Prevention measures that have been proven to work against Covid, such as wearing a mask, could become the norm during Covid season.
âWe just spent a year, a year and a half trying to prevent every infection,â Gottlieb said. “We’re going to evolve into a place whereâ¦ it becomes a way of life, or a fact of life, if you will.”
And if the elusive “collective immunity” is truly unattainable, White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said on Monday at a White House briefing, there is one thing to do: ” You are vaccinating as many people as possible, as quickly and as quickly as possible. As quickly as possible. “
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a contributor to CNBC and serves on the boards of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion, and biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.
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