The US moved a step closer to expanding COVID-19 vaccinations for millions of more children as a panel of government advisers on Tuesday endorsed kid-size doses of  Pfizer’s shots for 5 to 11-year-olds.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted unanimously, with one abstention, that the vaccine’s benefits in preventing COVID-19 in that age group outweigh any potential risks including a heart related side effect that’s been very rare in teens and young adults despite their use of a much higher shot dose.

Children  are at lower risk of severe COVID-19 than older people, ultimately many panellists decided it’s important to give parents the choice to protect their youngsters  those at high risk of illness or who live in places where other precautions, like masks in schools, aren’t being used.

Full-strength shots made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech already are recommended for everyone 12 and older but pediatricians and many parents are clamouring for protection for younger children. 

There  is less COVID-19 among 5 to 11-year-olds, they still have faced substantial illness  including over 8,300 hospitalisations reported, about a third requiring intensive care, and nearly 100 deaths.

A study of elementary schoolchildren found the Pfizer shots are nearly 91 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection  even though the youngsters received just a third of the dose given to teens and adults.

Pfizer’s study tracked 2,268 children ages 5 to 11 who got two shots three weeks apart of either a placebo or the kid dose. Vaccinated youngsters developed levels of virus-fighting antibodies just as strong as teens and young adults who got the full-strength shots.

The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects ‘such as sore arms, fever or achiness’ that teens experience. At FDA’s request, Pfizer more recently enrolled another 2,300 youngsters into the study, and preliminary safety data has shown no red flags.

Dr James Hildreth of Meharry Medical College said, “If the trends continue the way they are going then the emergency for children is not what we might think it might be”.

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