US set to vaccinate five-year-olds as panel backs Pfizer jab for children

27 October 2021, 10:21

Children as young as five in the US could be set to receive a Covid vaccine
Children as young as five in the US could be set to receive a Covid vaccine. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The US is set to start vaccinating children as young as five against coronavirus after a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel recommended the Pfizer vaccine be given to five to 11-year-olds.

Whilst the FDA is not bound by the panel's decision, it is set to make a decision in days and then all that remains is the decision from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on whether to recommend the jab, and which youngsters should get it.

"This is an age group that deserves and should have the same opportunity to be vaccinated as every other age," said panel member Dr Amanda Cohn of the CDC.

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In England, Scotland and Wales, rollout is underway for children aged 12 to 15, with youngsters of this age eligible to receive a single dose of Pfizer.

The rollout is set to begin shortly in Northern Ireland.

Certain groups of children - for example, those with weakened immune systems or those with conditions such as Down's Syndrome - can get two doses.

There is no vaccine currently approved for use for under 12s in the UK.

In America, full-strength Pfizer vaccines are already recommended for everyone over 12.

The FDA advisory panel voted unanimously, with one abstention, that the benefits of vaccination for five to 11-year-olds outweigh any potential risks - including that of rare heart-related side effects.

While children are far less likely than older people to get severe Covid, ultimately many panellists decided it was important to give parents the choice to protect their youngsters - especially those at high risk of illness or who live in places where other precautions, like masks in schools, are not being used.

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Over 8,300 hospitalisations have been recorded in the age group in the US, about a third of whom required intensive care, and nearly 100 died.

States are now getting ready to roll out the jabs, which will come in special orange-capped vials to avoid dosage mix-ups.