The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine could be approved for children younger than 5 as soon as next month, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.
In an interview with Blue Star Families, a nonprofit group that supports the families of U.S. service members, Fauci said that he expects the Food and Drug Administration to extend authorization of the vaccine soon.
''My hope is that it's going to be within the next month or so and not much later than that, but I can't guarantee that,'' said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president.
Pfizer, which is conducting vaccine trials for its COVID-19 vaccine in children as young as 6 months old, reportedly plans to submit its application for approval soon. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one minors in the U.S. are eligible for, with children as young as 5 years old allowed to receive it.
While the United States is already part of a small group of nations that vaccinate children under 12, approving the vaccines for children as young as 6 months old would make U.S. children the youngest in the world to receive the shots.
Pfizer announced in December it was extending the vaccines for younger children into a three-dose series, since trials found the two-dose regimen was not very effective in the age group.
The company also said the dose for younger children would be sizably smaller. Adults and children older than 12 now receive a 30-microgram dose of the vaccine, whereas children 5 to 12 receive a 10-mcg dose.
The dose for children younger than 5 will be three micrograms, a third of the size of the lowest dose now available.
Pfizer reported last month that its vaccine showed no safety concerns in clinical trials in children 6 months to 4 years old.
Children are at a much lower risk of COVID-19 than their older peers or adults, with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that minors account for less than 0.1% of COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began in the U.S. in March 2020.
Of the nearly 860,000 COVID-19 deaths nationwide, only 259 have been among children younger than 5.
CNBC reported that the World Health Organization's chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, said she did not think it necessary for healthy children to receive COVID-19 boosters.
''The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying, those are our elderly population, immunocompromised with underlying conditions and also health care workers,'' she said in a briefing Tuesday.
Many parents are also unsure whether to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to CDC data, children 5 to 11 are the least vaccinated group in the nation, with only 28% having received their first dose, and 19% being fully vaccinated.
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