An official with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that coronavirus vaccines for children under the age of 5 will be considered — and likely approved — as soon as June.
Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, suggested that the vaccines will be available shortly in an interview published on Friday in The Washington Post.
So far, only Moderna has submitted a request for emergency use authorization of its version of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to 4 years old. But Pfizer and BioNTech have said that they will submit their request sometime within the next few weeks.
The FDA plans to meet with outside advisers to discuss both versions of the vaccine on June 8, 21 and 22, The Post reported. The process for review will not be delayed due to consideration of other vaccine regimens, as one report from Politico had suggested.
“We are not going to delay things unnecessarily here. This whole concept of delaying is not something we will be doing,” Marks said in the interview.
Once the agency has met with its advisers, the vaccines could be approved within the same month, Marks added, stating that the agency “would anticipate June authorizations for one or more of the pediatric vaccinations.”
While vaccines for children that are 5 years old and older have been granted emergency use authorization, parents with younger children have struggled with what to do, as mask requirements have been relaxed in many places, leaving those without vaccines vulnerable to infection.
Concern for younger kids is warranted. The mortality rate for children under 5 is much lower than it is for others, but not nonexistent — indeed, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, hundreds of children under the age of 4 have died from COVID since the pandemic began.
Many children have also suffered from long-term effects after contracting coronavirus, a condition that is commonly known as “long COVID.” Symptoms range in severity from person to person, but it’s been established that children with long COVID can suffer from symptoms that are just as debilitating as those faced by adults.
“With long COVID, many kids suddenly find themselves struggling to keep up with their schoolwork or skipping sports,” an assessment from Yale Medicine says. “Others can’t sleep or have difficulty walking, while yet others struggle with aches and pains, breathlessness, dizziness, and other troubling symptoms.”
Experts also warn that there is not enough research on long COVID in children to determine just how widespread it is, though in the United Kingdom, it’s estimated that around 44,000 kids have the condition.
Research has found that one of the best ways to prevent or lessen the symptoms of long COVID is to get vaccinated.