Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Sunday that Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine might be available for children ages 5 to 11 as soon as early November.
"If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval and the recommendation from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], it's entirely possible, if not very likely, that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November," Fauci said in an interview with ABC’s "This Week."
Fauci, who serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, noted that the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss their recommendation on administering the Pfizer vaccine for the age group, and "then their regulatory decision will be handed over to the CDC, likely November 2 or 3."
About 28 million more children in the United States would become eligible for the vaccine if federal health officials approve the shots for the younger age set.
The Biden administration said it expects to ship out 15 million doses of the pediatric Pfizer shot — which is about a third of the dosage approved for adults and adolescents — and smaller needles used for vaccinating children within a week of approval.
Kids who get vaccinated in early November could be fully vaccinated by Christmas, allowing vaccinated families to safely gather this holiday season, officials have said.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is nearly 91% effective for children between 5 and 11 years old, according to the pharmaceutical company's study released Friday. The benefits of the vaccine in that age group outweighed the risks of not getting vaccinated, according to the FDA.
"If you look at the data that's been made public and announced by the company, the data look good as to the efficacy and the safety," Fauci said.
The United States has purchased 65 million doses of Pfizer's pediatric shots. They will be administered mainly by pediatricians, primary care doctors, local pharmacies, schools and community clinics as officials rely on trusted messengers to encourage vaccinations and combat hesitancy.
Just over half of parents with kids under age 12 say they would vaccinate their child, according to a Gallup Poll released late last month.
The FDA authorized the use of Pfizer’s vaccine in children ages 12 through 17 in August.
Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, making the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk shows, continued to encourage eligible Americans to sign up for their booster shots.
Booster shots for all three federally approved vaccines are available after the FDA last week approved Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for use. Last week, the CDC said those seeking boosters could mix and match after studies determined using a different booster brand than the one used for the initial vaccination remained equally effective in fighting the coronavirus.
Walensky told NBC’s "Meet the Press" that federal regulators "saw a lot of data over the last week" on the effectiveness of mixed vaccine brands, which led the CDC to recommend that "any one of these vaccines can really be used to boost any one of the others."
Fauci said it was "perfectly fine" to mix vaccines, but "we would hope that people, if available, would get the boost from the original product."
"It really becomes an issue of, what's the most convenient? What do you feel is best for you?," Fauci said. "If you have any question about it, you consult your physician."
Under the CDC guidelines issued last week, all individuals who were first vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago are eligible to receive a booster. The Pfizer and Moderna boosters currently are limited to those 65 and older and adults between the ages of 18 and 64 who have underlying health conditions or who work in high-risk settings such as clinics and senior homes.
On Long Island, 2.18% of COVID-19 tests were positive using a seven-day average Saturday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Sunday.
Positive tests in Nassau and Suffolk stood at 158 and 280, respectively, while 32 New Yorkers died on Saturday, including two in Suffolk and one in Nassau.
In Nassau County, 72.5% of all residents were fully vaccinated as of Sunday morning; in Suffolk, 65.9% were fully vaccinated, compared with 57.4% nationally.
With David Olson
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