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In a decision closely watched by parents and teachers across America, a panel of independent experts advising the US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday recommended that regulators authorize Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for 5-year-olds to 11-year-olds, a group that numbers 28 million.
The advisory committee found that the benefits of the shot outweighed the risks, voting 17-0 in favor with one abstention. If the FDA follows the panel’s advice, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees, shots could be rolled out to younger children as early as next week.
The move came after federal regulators and scientists argued that thousands of children between 5 and 11 had been hospitalized with Covid-19, and nearly 100 children had died over the course of the pandemic.
Covid-19 “is the eighth highest killer of kids in this age group over the past year,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, a top vaccine expert at the CDC. “Use of this vaccine will prevent deaths, will prevent ICU admissions and will prevent significant long-term adverse outcomes in children.”
Data from Pfizer showed that the vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in children aged 5 to 11. Still, some advisory committee members appeared troubled about making the decision based on limited safety data, circling around the risks of a rare heart condition known as myocarditis.
Pfizer has cut its dose for younger children to one-third of the strength given to people 12 and older. Experts say the lower dose should reduce the risk of side effects.
A pediatric Covid-19 vaccine has been highly anticipated by many parents anxious to protect their children at school, and has become an increasingly pressing issue as holiday gatherings approach.
A handful of countries have already authorized Covid-19 vaccines for kids. In September, Cuba became the first country in the world to vaccinate children as young as 2. Chile, China, El Salvador and the United Arab Emirates have also approved vaccines for younger children.
Many European countries are still weighing up whether to vaccinate children under 12. Meanwhile, in much of the world, vaccinating under-12s is not an option because of a lack of doses.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: How can I help prepare my child for the vaccine?
A: If your child isn’t exactly thrilled about getting vaccinated, there are steps you can take to help them prepare. Kelly Foy and Pat McLarney, both child life education specialists at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, shared their best tips for easing vaccine fears just in time for the rollout:
Ages 5 to 7:
- Give a brief step-by-step description of what to expect.
- Rely on the power of play. Little kids process their emotions through play, so send some stuffed animals or dolls to the doctor for their vaccines before it’s time for the kids to go!
- Keep their hands busy and their minds occupied to work through their anticipatory anxiety.
- Apply ice to the injection site before and after the shot.
Ages 8 to 11:
- Kids in this age group might have more detailed questions. Give honest answers and seek additional information if you aren’t sure how to answer. Empathize with them and listen to their concerns.
- Empower your big kids to write a list of questions to ask the nurse or doctor at the appointment to ease their worries.
- Have your child create a playlist to listen to during the appointment.
- Plan to watch an interesting video (cue it up so you don’t have to search!) or use a favorite app.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
READS OF THE WEEK
Europe is entering its second pandemic winter
The Covid-19 crisis is “far from finished,” the World Health Organization’s emergency committee warned on Tuesday, calling for research into next generation vaccines and long-term action to control the pandemic.
Nowhere is that grim reality more acutely felt than in Europe, which is entering its second pandemic winter despite the widespread availability of vaccines, Tara John writes. Europe is the only part of the world reporting an increase in new Covid-19 cases, which have been on the rise for three consecutive weeks. The suffering is worst in Eastern Europe and Russia, which are battling mounting deaths and cases fueled by vaccine hesitancy. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin imposed a curfew on hospitality events to tackle the spread of the virus. Ukraine, meanwhile, has been moved to the CDC’s highest level of Covid-19 travel risk, as it reports its highest level of daily cases since the pandemic began.
Caseloads may be high in some Western European countries, but thanks to their progress on vaccinations, Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations have remained largely flat compared to their Eastern counterparts. But while health experts say that crisis levels in Western Europe won’t reach what we saw in the past, the worsening wave in the United Kingdom shows that vaccines are not a silver bullet.
Filthy, used medical gloves imported into the US
In early 2020, demand for personal protective equipment shot through the roof as the pandemic gripped the planet. Medical grade nitrile gloves, used by doctors in patient examinations, turned into a precious commodity overnight – and the market to buy them became a dark underworld.
A months-long CNN investigation has found that tens of millions of counterfeit and second-hand nitrile gloves – some visibly soiled and blood-stained – have reached the United States, according to import records and distributors who bought the gloves. Criminal investigations are now underway by the authorities in the US and Thailand.
Yet, despite the potential risk to frontline healthcare workers and patients, US authorities have struggled to get a handle on the illicit trade – in part because import regulations for protective medical equipment were temporarily suspended at the height of the pandemic – and remain suspended today.
Your doctor may not know about this life-saving Covid treatment
Mayra Arana was worried. She had developed a “breakthrough” infection of Covid-19 and feared the virus might kill her, since her immune system was weak after years of treatment for leukemia. After her family physician told her there wasn’t much she could do besides rest, she turned to her oncologist for advice. It turned out there was a treatment for early-stage Covid-19: monoclonal antibodies.
“The next day I could feel a difference. Two days later I could get out of bed and clean the house and feed my children,” Arana said. “I really do think the antibodies saved my life.”
An investigation by CNN shows Arana is not alone in her challenge to find monoclonal antibodies. Many patients who qualify for the drugs say their doctors never mentioned them, even though it has been nearly a year since antibodies were first authorized by the US FDA, they’re the only treatment for early Covid, and studies have shown they can dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.
Get the candy corn ready
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious-disease expert, have encouraged kids to get outside on Halloween and enjoy trick-or-treating – even those who are still too young for vaccination.
“I would say, ‘Put on those costumes, stay outside and enjoy your trick-or-treating,’” Walensky told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday, when asked what advice she would give ahead of the holiday weekend. “If you are spread out doing your trick-or-treating, that should be very safe for your children,” she said, adding that she would avoid large gatherings.
CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen has some more tips on how to celebrate safely, whether your family is fully vaccinated or not.