A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people ages 12 to 15.
The approval by the CDC panel clears the way for vaccines to be used for those ages as soon as Thursday.
The panel voted unanimously — 14-0 — in favor of using the vaccine for those age groups.
“This is one more step to bringing immunity and bringing the pandemic closer to an end,” Dr. Jose Romero, chair of the advisory committee on immunization practices, said after the vote. He added there is still a younger age group that needs protection, “and we still need to vaccinate the rest of the world.”
During the panel hearing, several physicians weighed in on whether the COVID-19 vaccine could be given at the same time as other routine vaccinations for adolescents. The current guidance was that COVID-19 vaccines be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration of any other vaccines. But doctors said that guidance was not based on data but was made “in an abundance of caution.”
The panel approved revising its guidance to say, “COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing.” This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines. However, the guidance says providers can consider if a patient is behind or at risk of becoming behind on recommended vaccines, as well as consider the reactogenicity profile of the vaccines.
The doctors noted routine vaccination fell significantly this past year, and some cited evidence that when adolescents miss a vaccination, that often means they don’t get vaccinated.
While there are not studies assuring that co-administration is safe, as one doctor noted, “We are in an urgent moment and don’t have time to wait for those studies.”
In its public comment session, the panel heard from a half-dozen people opposing emergency-use authorization. Some feared that if the panel endorses the vaccine, that schools will mandate it. The speakers also said they wanted to see studies on potential long-term effects of vaccination before the vaccine is given to adolescents.
More on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only vaccine with FDA authorization for use in adolescents and teenagers. It is logistically challenging to distribute because it must be stored in special ultracold freezers that are not be widely available. To locate the nearest facility administering Pfizer, go to vaccine.gov/search/ then select Pfizer-BioNTech COVID Vaccine and input your ZIP code.
Pfizer-BioNTech is filing for full FDA approval of its vaccine for people ages 16 and up, making it the first vaccine in the U.S. to be assessed for full regulatory approval.
Pfizer-BioNTech has also announced it plans to file in September for emergency-use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine in ages 2 to 11.
Lois Norder of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.
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