New coronavirus cases among children recently hit a record high, but a vaccine for those under the age of 12 could be available by the end of the year, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
“We want to move quickly, we anticipate moving quickly, but we also want to have the efficacy data and the safety data that the [Food and Drug Administration] will require … to make sure that it is the right thing for kids,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an interview with NBC’s “Today.”
A similar timeline for those ages 5 to 11 has been suggested by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. surgeon general and the FDA’s vaccine chief. The FDA’s former head, who now serves on Pfizer’s board of directors, also said Sunday that Pfizer’s vaccine could be approved for children by the end of October.
As Walensky said Monday, vaccine makers must first submit their data to the FDA for emergency use authorization. It will then likely take a few weeks, but not months, for the FDA to determine whether the shots are safe for children, the agency’s vaccine chief, Dr. Peter Marks, told The Associated Press on Friday.
Pfizer has said it expects to turn over its vaccine study results by the end of September, while fellow vaccine maker Moderna has told investors that it expects to submit its data by the end of the year.
Data shows that adults generally face a greater risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. But the delta variant has increased the rate of virus transmission, Walensky pointed out, and children are just as capable as adults of falling ill and spreading the virus.
“We definitely are seeing more disease,” she said Monday. “This virus is an opportunist. It will go where people are not vaccinated. The best thing we can do for our kids is surround them by people who are vaccinated when they become eligible to be vaccinated.”
About 252,000 new coronavirus cases were reported among children in a single week earlier this month, according to data compiled by two health organizations. It marked the largest number of new pediatric COVID-19 cases in a single week since the pandemic began and came as millions of children headed back to school.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, also speaking with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on Monday, stressed that children and teachers should get vaccinated as soon as they’re able.
“What we’re finding is COVID rates in schools are just mirrors of what’s happening in the community. We need to do our part to lower community spread so our schools can stay open,” he said.
Cardona voiced support for vaccine mandates in schools but stopped just short of calling for them.
“If we’re seeing the vaccines work and they’re our best tool then, yes, they should,” he said, referring to whether COVID-19 vaccines should be required in schools.