NATIONWIDE — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could grant emergency use authorization to Pfizer for its COVID-19 vaccine in children 11 years of age and younger as early as November, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. The Moderna vaccine could be approved for children less than 12 years old just a few weeks later, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert said in a live event with the New York Times Thursday.
“Whenever you’re dealing with vulnerable populations, safety becomes a very critical issue,” Fauci said, adding that Pfizer and Moderna have been conducting clinical studies for the last few months among various age groups, including 9- to 11-year olds, 6- to 9-year olds, 2- to 6-year-olds and babies between the ages of six months and two years.
Pfizer is expected to provide its data to the FDA for review at the end of September, with Moderna submitting its data about a month later.
As pediatric hospital wards are filling up with children who have COVID, Fauci said that “children do not have a lower infection rate than adults. They have a lower seriousness of infection rate.”
He cautioned that even though children are less likely to have a severe outcome as adults and those with underlying health conditions, kids who do contract COVID could still be subject to long-lasting effects, such as fatigue, muscle aches and sleep disturbances.
Fauci’s conversation took place as the United States is recording 160,000 new COVID infections per day.
“We are still in the middle of a serious pandemic, and it is definitely involving children,” he said.
The conversation also took place on a day when the board of education for the Los Angeles Unified School District is voting on whether to mandate vaccinations for students. If approved, it would be the first school district to do so in the country.
“Children who are old enough to get vaccinated, we should try as best as we can to encourage them to get vaccinated,” said Fauci, adding that he supports a vaccine mandate for teachers and school personnel, as well as a mask mandate for schools.
“We know masks work,” he said, citing a recent study of 340,000 adults in Bangladesh that showed the more people wore masks, the less COVID spread.
Fauci said he also supports what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to as a layered approach in school settings, including masks, testing and improved ventilation.
“Ventilation is critical,” he said. “To the extent you can eat lunch outside, that would be great.”
As the delta variant continues to wreak havoc, a third shot of the vaccine is likely to be necessary to increase individuals’ immune response, Fauci said. He said recent data from Israel suggests a diminution in protection from the virus. That diminution in efficacy was most apparent among the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, he added, but a third shot boosted immune response “well above” the response to two doses.
“The effectiveness is coming down, no doubt,” he said. “What we can’t decipher is if it’s waning immunity in general, the delta variant or a combination of both, but the kinetics of the decline are true waning immunity because we were seeing the waning even before delta became dominant.”