We Finally Have a Schedule for Vaccinating Children Against COVID
After almost a year of waiting and thinking, we finally have a tentative timetable for when COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5-11 may be allowed. The White House announced a plan today, which is contingent on FDA and CDC decisions, to be completed by November 3 if all goes well. The timing of vaccination of children under 5 years of age has not yet been determined.
Upcoming decisions will include, inter alia, Pfizer’s imagery; Pfizer has asked the FDA to expand its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to include children aged 5-11. There are several government agencies involved, and they meet in order, for example:
- The FDA’s Vaccine Advisory Group, VRBPAC, will meet on October 26 to discuss Pfizer’s application and vote on whether the vaccine should be approved for children 5-11 years old. This meeting is open to the public and you can sign up here .
- The FDA will make a formal decision shortly thereafter. If the advisory group votes in favor, it is likely that the FDA will issue an authorization.
- The CDC’s vaccine advisory group, ACIP, then meets to discuss and vote on who to recommend the vaccine. This meeting is also public and a link to the webcast will be posted here .
- The CDC makes a formal recommendation shortly thereafter. Follow the news.
- According to the White House, “we will be ready to start shooting in the coming days after the final recommendation of the CDC.”
When will we know if the vaccine is safe for children?
Agencies will review safety and efficacy data provided by Pfizer and possibly other data that may be available. If there is any doubt as to whether a vaccine is safe enough or effective enough, we will learn about it during this process.
One of the key points to watch out for will happen shortly before the October 26 meeting: FDA officials usually prepare a report with their interpretation of the submitted data and post it on the VRBPAC Meetings page. (Expect it to be uploaded here at the very bottom, marked with something like “White Paper – FDA.” solution.
As a parent and medical reviewer, I will be monitoring this document and reactions to it. If there are red flags, it could mean that the vaccine will not be authorized or recommended according to the proposed schedule. After all, November preparations are only needed if the vaccine is found to be safe and effective.
By Halloween, the FDA is likely to make its decision; The FDA decides whether a vaccine should go to market, while the CDC makes recommendations on who should get it. If the FDA thinks the vaccine looks good, the CDC phase should be pretty smooth and straightforward. On the other hand, if the FDA has concerns about the safety or effectiveness of a vaccine for certain groups of people, the CDC may decide not to recommend it to those groups. And if the FDA decisively says no, the CDC team probably won’t even bother to meet.
When can I make an appointment to get my child vaccinated?
According to the White House plan , the federal government has already purchased enough Pfizer vaccines to supply all 28 million children aged 5 to 11 in the United States.
In addition to places where adults can already receive vaccines, new vaccination clinics will be set up specifically for children. The plan notes that these will include:
- Pediatric offices
- Children’s hospitals
- School and community clinics
- Community Health Centers and Rural Health Centers
Make sure that these clinics are advertised in your area, and consider asking your child’s school or pediatrician if they plan to start vaccinating. Unlike other vaccines that are purchased by healthcare providers, all COVID-19 vaccines are currently paid for by the federal government and distributed at designated vaccination centers. According to the White House plan, these centers will be able to start vaccinations “within days” following a final recommendation from the CDC – and it looks like this could mean the first week of November.