COVID-19 vaccine for young kids nears emergency approval, expected as soon as next week

A panel of scientists signed off on it. The Michigan governor had directed the state to expedite its distribution. After one more panel approval, all that's left is for the director of the Food and Drug Administration to give their blessing.

One of the last population groups in the U.S. to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine may soon be able to get the shot as children ages 5-11 remain one of the last unvaccinated groups. The FDA could give the green light as early as next week.

"I was ready to get her vaccinated back when the older kids were approved. I just couldn't do it," said Dr. Matthew Sims of Beaumont Health. "(Vaccines are) one of the single greatest contributions to medicine and general health of the public ever."

A group of scientists gave unanimous approval with one abstaining during a Tuesday review of the COVID-19 vaccine with a child-sized dose for younger kids. Now local health departments in Michigan are readying up to quicken the process of ordering and distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. 

"My directive today ensures equitable, expedited distribution of the vaccines. Parents should sign up to protect their kids," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. Michigan has pre-ordered 286,700 doses of the pediatric Pfizer vaccine. 

There was a rare heart-related side effect that arises out of children given a stronger dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But scientists said the chances of it showing is very rare.

Among the final steps to approval is the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is scheduled to meet Nov. 2-3 to review data and recommendations. That ACIP's authority has to do with how the U.S. should use the vaccine and whether mandates should be deployed in schools. 

After that assumed recommendation, it'll go to the CDC for final approval. 

From January to October, unvaccinated Michiganders accounted for 93.1% of COVID cases, 90.7% of hospitalizations and 90.5% of deaths. 

After the staggered-but-slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for adults at the beginning of the year, Whitmer hopes to avoid any delays for distributing the vaccine to kids. 

The executive directive expedites the administration of pediatric vaccinations by: 

  • Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to take all appropriate action to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccination is available to all children in Michigan as soon as they are eligible to receive the vaccine.
  • Encouraging all pediatric vaccination providers to enroll as COVID-19 vaccine providers, including by educating pediatricians and family practice providers about eligibility, barriers to access, and the importance of pediatric vaccination.
  • Promoting vaccination in settings that facilitate ease of access, including by working with child and adolescent health centers serving grades K-12, federal qualified health centers, pharmacies, local health departments, and community clinics.
  • Promoting equity in accessibility of pediatric vaccination, considering barriers to access presented by geography, income, age, race, ethnicity, primary language, or disability status.