An expert panel on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to recommend the US Food and Drug Administration authorise the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, saying the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks.
An authorisation for that age group would be an important regulatory step toward reaching about 28 million children for inoculation, most of them back in school for in-person learning.
The vaccine could be available to the younger age group next week. The food and drug administration (FDA) is not obligated to follow the advice of its outside experts, but usually does. The vote was 17 in favour with one abstention.
If the FDA authorises the shots for this age group, an advisory panel to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet next week to make a recommendation on the administration of the vaccine. The CDC director will make the final call.
While children becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 is relatively rare compared with adults, some develop complications, and infections in unvaccinated kids have risen due to the easily transmitted Delta variant of the coronavirus. Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that more than 500 US children have died from COVID-19.
Only a few other countries, including China, Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, have so far cleared COVID-19 vaccines for children in this age group and younger.