(Trends Wide) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may soon authorize a Pfizer / BioNTech covid-19 vaccine for young children, experts said, a development that offers hope amid a dangerous time in the pandemic for children, who account for a quarter of all cases reported last week.
“It is conceivable that by Halloween, we may see vaccines to apply, but it will take several weeks for that process to work,” FDA vaccine adviser Dr. James Hildreth told Trends Wide’s Don Lemon on Monday.
That process is happening as the second-highest total of new cases in children was reported last week, and cases in that group continue to increase exponentially, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics released Monday.
And as cases spread, hospitalization rates are high. An average of 311 children were hospitalized with COVID-19 every day during the past week, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Pittsburgh, UPMC Children’s Hospital officials said they are seeing a “historic” number of children coming to the Emergency Department. A tent was set up outside the emergency room on Friday to help accommodate more patients, the hospital said in a social media post.
Currently, the youngest Americans eligible for vaccination are those over the age of 12, and the vaccination rate for teens is still close to half, according to a Trends Wide analysis of CDC data.
Trials for younger children are currently underway, and Pfizer / BioNTech announced in a press release Monday that a phase 2 out of 3 trial showed their two-dose vaccine to be safe and elicited a “robust” antibody response in children. from 5 to 11 years old. Expanding access to vaccines would be important both to protect children and to end the influence of the virus in the United States for all, said dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Peter Hotez.
“Ultimately, if we really want to stop this epidemic in the United States, we need to vaccinate 85-90% of the American population,” Hotez said. “That means all adults, all teenagers, and a large number of young children.”
But there’s still a big challenge ahead: putting vaccines in children’s arms, said Dr. Johnathan Reiner, a Trends Wide medical analyst.
While some parents are eager to get their children vaccinated, others are more hesitant.
“While it seems like a guarantee that parents would give their children this vaccine, we are going to have to do a much better job educating a very diverse group of Americans that this vaccine is safe and effective,” he said.
But as health professionals talk to families about the decision, Trends Wide medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen said she thinks it’s okay that some parents aren’t prepared.
“I understand that some of them may not want to go first,” Wen said. “There is another segment of parents who are really anxious, who would do anything to get their children vaccinated. Let them go first.”
Changes in school policies
As the vaccination process unfolds, schools are navigating how to handle student safety on campus.
New quarantine protocols for Miami-Dade County Public Schools students and teachers went into effect Monday, reducing the time staff members and high school students must be quarantined from 10 to 5 days if exposed. to covid-19, as long as they have had a negative test and do not present symptoms.
Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said masks are still required for all teachers and students, but indicated that it is something they will continue to see as the year progresses.
“These are metrics that we are advancing with our working group … to be seen as the gatekeepers of further relaxation of the protocols,” he said.
New York City officials also reduced the quarantine time for exposed students, allowing masked and unvaccinated students in a classroom to avoid quarantine if there was classroom exposure and they were within a meter of each other.
However, starting next week, schools will increase student testing to once a week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
And in North Carolina, the Union County Public Schools Board voted Monday to amend its controversial protocol that said “all students and staff who do not have a positive COVID-19 test or symptoms must return to school. or to work immediately “, even if they were a close contact of a positive case of covid-19,
The vote confirmed two amendments: one that stops all staff responsibilities regarding contact tracing and quarantine for students and staff, and another that requires students and staff to be symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19. 19 stay home. The board will recognize the quarantines of people in close contact with a positive case, it said in a press release.
Booster vaccines could be expanded to more populations, says Fauci
Booster vaccine doses have been another consideration to bolster protection against the virus, and while the population under consideration for licensing is limited, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the group could expand.
FDA vaccine advisers voted Friday to recommend authorization for emergency use of a booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine for people 65 and older and those at high risk for severe COVID-19. The FDA has yet to act on that recommendation.
But Fauci told Trends Wide’s Wolf Blitzer that the FDA will follow incoming data from the US and Israel in real time and adjust authorizations accordingly.
“Decreased protection, particularly against serious illness in younger age groups, would prompt the FDA to review it and determine if it wants to expand the recommendation for those under 65,” Fauci said.
If that data comes in, “then I think it’s likely that as we move forward in the next few weeks, we’ll see more and more an expansion of the recommendation for booster shots for those people,” Fauci said.
Those who received the Moderna vaccine or a dose from Johnson & Johnson “have not been forgotten,” Fauci noted.
“The data associated with the booster vaccines in those individuals will reach the FDA, I imagine in two to three weeks,” he said. “They will look at it the same way they did before and hopefully they will get a recommendation that provides fairness between people who have had different products in their vaccination regimen.”
Jen Christensen, Jacqueline Howard, Amanda Sealy, Lauren Mascarenhas, Elizabeth Stuart, Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.