The Food and Drug Administration is expected to greenlight Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for children as young as 12 next week, clearing the way for them to get vaccinated before the new school year begins next fall.
The announcement, first reported by The New York Times, would be made a month after Pfizer found that its two-dose vaccine offered near-total protection for young teens.
If cleared, an FDA advisory panel will convene to review clinical trial data and offer an official recommendation, mirroring the final steps taken before Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines were originally authorized.
The agency declined to comment, saying only that the review was ongoing.
In a study released in March, Pfizer found that none of the adolescents who received the vaccine developed symptomatic infections, and that volunteers produced strong antibody responses. They experienced about the same level of side effects as those ages 16 to 25.
While the United States has fully vaccinated over 100 million people, vaccination rates have slowed in recent days, raising concerns that the country may never reach the herd immunity level necessary to fully eradicate the virus.
Cases around the world have surged to record highs in recent weeks, leading some to question whether excess supply should be given to an age group that has been disproportionately spared from the dangers COVID-19 poses.
“I do think we need to have a national and global conversation about the ethics of our vaccinating kids, who are low risk for serious complications from the virus, when there aren’t enough vaccines in the world to protect high-risk adults from dying,” Jennifer B. Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told The Times.
Moderna, whose two-dose vaccine was approved a week after Pfizer’s, has also begun testing it on children ages 12 to 17 and has said it soon expects results.