WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted Tuesday to formally recommend that children as young as 5 be authorized to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine under emergency use authorization.
If the CDC grants approval next week, agency director Dr. Rochelle Walensky would need to personally sign off on the shots before they become widely available.
Dr. Yong Sing da Silva, the medical director of Pediatric Critical Care for Palms West Hospital, said Wednesday the impending approval by the FDA and CDC was "really positive" news.
He said he and his fellow doctors are just now starting to catch their breaths following the onslaught of the summer surge of coronavirus cases.
"We saw all ranges of children becoming quite sick, receiving ICU level care, both because of acute COVID pneumonias and the kind of respiratory complications that we've come to unfortunately know well," da Silva said. "Also, the post-COVID inflammatory syndrome that typically affects the heart, and it can be quite severe."
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The doctor said his hospital has treated patients with COVID as young as a month old along with adolescents.
"What's been striking is the lack of significant medical comorbidities in a lot of patients who were affected in kids that got really sick," da Silva said. "There were a number of really previously healthy children who came in with severe hypoxia."
He said a significant amount of pediatric patients that his hospital treated recently for COVID-19 were previously healthy.
"You would not have predicted that these children would have gotten really severe pulmonary COVID," da Silva said.
The doctor said he has not seen any adolescent patients who were vaccinated that needed to be hospitalized.
He said right now it is unclear if an 11-year-old child will need a booster shot once they turn 12.
"There's some thought that the full adult dose that were used for the older adolescents, the 12 and up, may have been more than what was required, in that a smaller dose may have been sufficient to prime the immune system and generate the antibody response that would confer protection from hospitalization and death from severe disease," da Silva said.
Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for everyone aged 16 and up. The shots are also available for adolescents between the age of 12 and 15 on an emergency use basis.
Younger children would get just a third of the dose given to teens and adults. A study found kid-size vaccinations are nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections of COVID-19.