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KPBS Midday Edition

Nearly 300K additional San Diego children may soon be eligible for Pfizer vaccine

In this file photo, a nurse holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.
Frank Augstein / AP
In this file photo, a nurse holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

A key Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel has recommended a lower dose of the Pfizer vaccine for the nation’s 28 million children aged 5 to 11.

The announcement was made after members of the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee determined the vaccine to be safe for children with minimal side effects.

A final decision from the FDA is expected to be rendered within days. Then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will consider whether it will recommend the shots.

Roughly 300,000 children in the 5-11 age group live in San Diego, making the recent recommendation a major step in ongoing local efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Eric Topol, the director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, joined Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss the recent recommendation and the impact vaccinating this age group would have.

"If we can get a good portion of those 28 million children of this age group vaccinated, then it's really going to help a lot to get the U.S. and San Diego in great shape," he said.

300,000 additional San Diego children may soon be eligible for Pfizer vaccine

Dr. Topol continued, “It’s certainly an essential part of building our delta immunity wall and its potentially subsequent versions of the virus because we’re well short of the population level immunity that we need to block this virus, to prevent this chain of spread,”

2,200 children were a part of the Pfizer vaccine trials. Side effects have been similar to those experienced by adults and teens. Topol described those side effects as “a local reaction arm discomfort, fatigue and other symptoms that are a mild flu case can last a day or two.”

If authorized, children would receive two 10 micro-gram doses of the Pfizer vaccine, a third less than the doses for those 12 and older. The vaccines would be given 21 days apart.

“With respect to efficacy, for Pfizer, it was almost 91%, which is really quite striking," Topol said. "That is protection from symptomatic infections in children age 5 to 11 was reduced by 91%, that’s really impressive.”

There are currently ongoing trials of children younger than 5. Vaccine approval for that age group is not expected until early 2022.