Nearly a quarter of a million Michigan children have already had COVID-19, but the rate of infections would drop dramatically if families take advantage of a vaccine now available for children under 12, according to experts in the Wayne State University Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases.
Based on evidence accumulated through controlled vaccine trials that studied the reduced strength vaccine in children, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee has recommended approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the U.S. in this age group, and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible.
“The high level of protection that the COVID-19 vaccine has demonstrated in clinical trials as well as the demonstrated safety profile means we can now prevent the vast majority of future COVID-19 episodes in children if we act now,” said Paul Kilgore, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Pharmacy Practice and co-director of the Wayne State Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases.
The CDC has reported, “COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as ‘long COVID,’ in which symptoms can linger for months… . Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm.”
Marcus Zervos, M.D., WSU assistant dean of Global Affairs and division head of Infectious Diseases at Henry Ford Health System and co-director of the CEID, said the pediatric formulation of the Pfizer vaccine is one-third the strength of the adult dose and given in two doses, three weeks apart. A lower dose (scientists call this antigen content) produces a strong immune response and is optimal to help minimize side effects children may experience.
Drs. Zervos and Kilgore served as co-principal investigators on the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine studies in Detroit.
“Although some parents may be hesitant about vaccinating their children, the scientific evidence shows that they are safe and effective,” Dr. Zervos said. “We have been vaccinating children for decades with very few side effects and we need to use this medicine to keep our children safe. If you have questions, talk to your child’s pediatrician.”
As of Nov. 3, State of Michigan COVID-19 data shows that 55,757 children age 0 to 9 have developed confirmed COVID-19 disease. Another 10,719 children ages 0 to 9 have been diagnosed with probable COVID-19. In children ages 10 to 19, there have been more than 145,00 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and another 25,000 probable cases.
Recent CDC data show that 172 children ages 5 to 11 have died from COVID-19.