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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Pfizer-BioNTech Announced Low Doses of Vaccine Safe For Children Aged 5-11

Speaker 1: 00:00 Drug companies Pfizer, and Biointech announced in a press release this morning, that lower doses of their joint COVID-19 vaccine provided a safe immune response to children. As young as five years of age, the findings are a welcome sign for parents and pediatricians alike who have been waiting for further guidance on a two-shot regimen of the vaccine for children, five to 11, Dr. Steven specter is a professor of pediatrics and a member of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at UC San Diego and Rady children's hospital. He joins us now with more Dr. Specter, welcome back to the program. Speaker 2: 00:35 Thank you for having me. We'd Speaker 1: 00:37 Been waiting for a while now for some insurance that the vaccine is safe for children. What new data has Pfizer come across that allowed them to make this call? Speaker 2: 00:45 Well Pfizer with their MRI and a vaccine, uh, enrolled over 2000 children in a study in which the children were between five and 11 years of age. And what they found was that the immune response to the vaccine appears to be equivalent to that which has been seen in older children and adults, and the adverse effects that we're seeing were also very similar to what was seen in those other age groups. I think it's important also to keep in mind that these they lower dose. So, whereas in adults, they use a 30 microgram dose of the messenger RNA patrols they have used for this age group, a dose of 10 micrograms of the messenger RNA, Speaker 1: 01:35 Because the available research concluded about long-term side effects for children in this age group. Speaker 2: 01:41 Well, I don't think we can say that. And so that's of course, one of the concerns and one of the reasons why Pfizer will be going for any emergency use for their vaccine and that the vaccine will not be fully licensed because at this stage we do not know what the long-term effects are. However, based on the adult data and based on the data in children who are older than 12 years of age, uh, one would expect that there would be very few adverse effects that, uh, lasted for a prolonged period of time. Speaker 1: 02:18 We've seen the risk shift to younger demographics in recent months. Can you explain how that shift in risk from older to younger happened? Speaker 2: 02:27 We are really seeing is the benefit of the vaccines. And so as more adults and older adolescents have been immunized, they're protected from getting infected and being hospitalized and having serious COVID 19 infections. Whereas younger children who are not immunized are more likely to become infected when they're exposed to someone who is infected with COVID-19. So what we are really seeing is yes, there's an increase in the number of children who are becoming infected because they're going back to school and having more exposures. And that percentage is increasing because the younger group of children have not been immunized and the older adolescents and adults have been immunized. So what we're really seeing is the beneficial effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. Speaker 1: 03:27 Pfizer is one of many vaccines currently available. How quickly do you think vaccines from other pharmaceutical companies will expand their guidance to include this age? Speaker 2: 03:37 Right. Madonna, uh, in fact, is working on a study right now that we are participating in at Rady children's hospital. The study involves children who are between six and less than 12 years of age. So very similar to the Pfizer study. And in fact, the children will receive their second doses as part of this study, uh, by Saturday of this week. So in fact, there will be, uh, uh, a study and this is a study that has randomized children three to one, either to receive the vaccine or to receive a placebo. And the expectation would be that the immunogenicity and adverse effects will be evaluated for at least another 30 days after that period of time in which the data will then be analyzed. And one would expect that given the timeline that sometime in late October, November, we would be seeing data from, um, maternal for this age group, uh, Johnson and Johnson is also planning a study in this age group. Uh, but they are going to be a bit further behind from where the other two companies are. Speaker 1: 05:01 And as a specialist in pediatrics and infectious diseases, how are you advising patients in light of this news? Speaker 2: 05:08 Well, I think that this is very exciting. We've been looking forward to a vaccine for younger children. We know very clearly that younger children one can be infected too, although it's less likely that they will have serious infections, that we are seeing children who are being hospitalized. Fortunately, deaths are very uncommon, but they have occurred. And so as soon as there is an easy way, I, and I think my colleagues will be very strongly recommending to parents that children who are eligible become immunized with these vaccines. Speaker 1: 05:46 Some have said that there is less urgency in vaccinating children, as there is in safeguarding, more vulnerable populations. Do you think that's still the case? Speaker 2: 05:56 We're in a fortunate Speaker 1: 05:58 Position in this country. We don't have to make that choice. We have plenty of vaccines available to us so that those who are immune compromised should be immunized. And if they're immunosuppressed, they should get a third vaccine, uh, one available to them and we don't have to choose. We can immunize children also as well as the immunocompromised patients. So that, uh, again, we're in a fortunate position. And as soon as these vaccines become available for children, I, and I'm sure my colleagues will highly recommend that children be immunized against COVID-19. What's the biggest question you still have about how the COVID-19 vaccines interact with children? Speaker 2: 06:47 I think that we'll have to see when large numbers of children are immunized. There were over 2000 children in the Pfizer study. There will be over 4,000 children in the modernists study, three quarters of whom will have received the marinade vaccines. And what we'll really need to see is what happens when not only thousands of children, but hundreds of thousands and millions of children get immunized. And will there be low grade are low incident complications that we will need to watch out for. But I think as of now, given where we are with the vaccines, the likelihood that there will be severe long-term reactions to the vaccine or some of the other findings that have been found, including mild carditis and para carditis, one would expect that in this age group will be extremely low. Speaker 1: 07:47 I've been speaking to Dr. Steven specter, professor of pediatrics and a member of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at UC San Diego and Rady children's hospital. Dr. Specter, thanks so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 07:59 Thank you for having me.

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Recent finding have concluded the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be safe for children aged 5-11, according to the two pharmaceutical companies behind it's development.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments