As coronavirus cases among children continue to rise in the U.S., there’s a chance those under the age of 12 will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine before the end of the year, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the U.S. surgeon general said Tuesday, even as the director of the National Institutes of Health said that that may be pushing it.
“I think there’s a reasonable chance that that will be the case,” Fauci, who serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with NBC’s “Today.”
“We’re collecting that data now,” he said of ongoing clinical trials involving pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer, which manufactured two of the vaccines available in the U.S. “That data ultimately will be presented to the [Food and Drug Administration] to look at it for the balance between safety and risk-benefit ratio for the children. I hope all of that process will take place expeditiously,” he added, while giving a hopeful timeline of “mid-late fall and early winter.”
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, in an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Brianna Keilar, also said it may be “possible” to see these vaccines approved before the end of the year.
“Until then, Brianna, there is something really important we can do to protect our children and that’s to make sure that the people around them are vaccinated,” he said.
Despite this timeline optimism, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, suggested in an interview with NPR also Tuesday anything earlier than the end of this year would be pushing it.
“Pfizer thinks that maybe by the end of September they’ll be ready to send in their trial data (to the FDA) and then the FDA will have to review it. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t see the approval for kids 5 to 11 coming much before the end of 2021,” he said.
Pfizer and BioNTech submitted its coronavirus vaccine to the FDA for emergency use authorization on Nov. 20, 2020, and the request was approved on Dec. 11. Roughly five months later, on May 10, the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization to include those age 12 through 15.
These approvals followed clinical studies determining that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits clearly outweighed its known and potential risks. The vaccine was fully approved by the FDA on Monday for those age 16 and older and as of Tuesday remains available for emergency use for those age 12 to 15.
The speculative timelines by Fauci and Collins follow a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association finding that new cases of COVID-19 in children have increased fourfold over the past month ― rising from around 38,000 cases at the end of July to roughly 180,000 as of last Thursday.
Child hospitalizations and deaths from the virus remain relatively low, according to data collected from 23 states and New York City. Among those states reporting, 0.2% to 1.9% of pediatric COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization and .03% or less resulted in death.