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A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel on Wednesday approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15 — opening up the live-saving shots to millions of young Americans.
The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee green-lit the two-dose jab, and the agency’s director is now expected to sign off on the approval later in the day — allowing the age group to begin getting inoculated as early as this week.
Doctors on the panel cited clinical trials showing the vaccine poses a low risk to the age group along with data about the threat of youth transmitting the virus to more vulnerable populations. They also noted the potential economic impact of failing to inoculate kids.
“Vaccinating adolescents may allow greater confidence in a safe return to school,” Dr. Sarah Oliver of the CDC told the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Wednesday. “[It’s] estimated that over time school closures could have a total economic loss as high as $15 trillion in the US.”
She added, “Use of vaccines in as many populations as possible will be important to returning to pre-pandemic activities.”
Kids ages 12 to 15 can get the shots at any location that offers the Pfizer vaccine, and federal health officials also want to use “school-focused” strategies to get kids the vaccine, the panel said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo later said state health officials are ready to approve the Pfizer vaccine for New Yorkers ages 12 to 15 as soon as Thursday.
The panel’s vote came after the FDA on Monday granted the pharmaceutical firm emergency use authorization, with the agency’s acting commissioner calling it a “significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The FDA said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has met “the regulatory criteria” to be used in children as young as 12, which “outweighs the known and potential risks.”
Although kids have milder symptoms from the virus than adults, there have been about 1.5 million COVID-19 cases among 11- to 17-year-olds since the beginning of the pandemic.
Some critics have questioned using the vaccines on the lower- risk population when more-vulnerable adults in many other countries have yet to receive the shots.
The FDA approved the vaccine for use on people 16 and older in December.
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