FDA could soon allow Pfizer's COVID vaccine for adolescents age 12 to 15

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to expand the authorization for Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to children ages 12 to 15 in the coming days. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices would also need to update its recommendations for the shot. Dr. Dyan Hes, founder of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City, joined CBSN to discuss the next steps in the vaccination effort.

Video Transcript

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: The FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 in the coming days. That's according to a federal health official. The CDC's advisory committee on vaccination practices would still need to consider updating its recommendations for the shot. A CDC official had previously said the agency was actively preparing to present the data to the committee.

Dr. Dyan Hes is the founder of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City, and she joins us now to discuss what could be a major development in the vaccination effort. Dr. Hes, this is big news for parents who have been anxiously waiting to get their kids inoculated before sending them off to summer camp or back to school in the fall. So what is the demand for the vaccine in that age group?

DYAN HES: I think the demand is large. I have so many patients who have been calling since yesterday when the announcement was made and emailing me. Parents want to send their kids to camp safely. Many of my patients, so I work in Chelsea, New York, where we have one of the highest rates of vaccination in New York State and probably in the country. So these parents have already experienced getting the vaccine for the most part, and they felt that it was very safe, so they are really on board about getting their kids a vaccination.

Ironically, I heard from one parent that there are people who have been sneaking into pharmacies to get their kids the vaccine using an older sibling's ID, and it's kind of crazy. It's like the black market for vaccinations, and I explained to them that that's not safe, and that's dangerous, and then it wouldn't really be on their permanent medical record because it would be not a valid vaccine if they got it before it was authorized, but that's how desperate people are to get their kids vaccinated.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: On the flip side, though, there are going to be people who are going to be really concerned. They're already concerned about adults getting the vaccine, but certainly, there are going to be concerns about children. What do you say to people like that to ease their concerns?

DYAN HES: Well, I say, look at what we've seen already. We've seen that the vaccinations have been safe in adults, especially the Pfizer, which is the one that the children will be getting. So Pfizer is the only one right now that will be authorized for adolescents, and it's already been used in 16 and up.

We really haven't had any case reports of anything bad happening to these children, and it's a lot of fear mongering, a lot of misinformation and disinformation. There's a lot of political agenda behind the vaccinations. The anti-vax movement is going to take this and run with it because it's something new that they can fixate on, and they say, we've been right for all these years, and now look, you're forcing us to get the COVID vaccine.

Nobody is forcing anybody to get the COVID vaccine right now. This is going to be optional, and I think for the parents who want it, it's fantastic. And I think you can see like in New York, we're already feeling the sense of normalcy returning a bit. More kids are going back to school this week. Today was my daughter's first day of in-person public school this year. This is because of the vaccine, and if we want to get back to normalcy, we will do this.

Remember, adolescents get sicker than two-year-olds. So for the most part, most of my patients have had really no sequelae from COVID, but the ones who were a little bit sicker where the teenagers. They were maybe sick with a flu-like symptoms for a week or so. That would be a week of school that you would miss, and then you could also spread it to other people.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: Yeah, that was my question, Dr. Hes. Generally speaking, kids tend to be low risk for serious complications. Correct me if I'm wrong about that. So given that there is a low risk of real sickness for children, are you confident that there is enough of a supply to protect, for example, high-risk adults in other parts of the world.

Because we've been reporting a lot on what's going on in India, for example, which is heartbreaking, and I wonder if the rush to vaccinate children with the vaccines that we do have readily available could perhaps be used in other parts of the world, not to diminish from anybody here in this country. I know strategically, we have to take care of our own first, but what are your thoughts on that?

DYAN HES: So this is really more about the cold chain supply and how to distribute a vaccine. So the vaccines are already in the pharmacies. The vaccines are already at Javits Center and stadiums across the country. And what we're having right now is that everybody who really wanted to get vaccinated was vaccinated, and now we have the vaccine hesitant patients who we need to convince or prove with science that vaccines are safe.

These vaccines are not going to be recollected and sent to India. That doesn't happen. So these vaccines, remember, Pfizer has to be kept at a very, very low temperature, I think almost like minus 95 degrees Celsius. This is not easy to distribute in a third-world country. That's why the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccine is so much easier to distribute in third-world countries because it's one shot, and it's at a regular freezer temperature.

So it's not like we're taking the vaccines away from third-world countries because it's sitting in our pharmacies and now we're going to give it to teenagers, it's that those vaccines have already been distributed. What India needs to do is to get their infrastructure ready to accept vaccines from other countries and have that cold chain supply. If these vaccines aren't used within a certain amount of time that they are taken out of the freezer, I mean, for Pfizer, it's like six hours or something.

I know that when I give the shots, they run, somebody runs with a little vaccine in a tube, and I have to give it right away because it's come out of the freezer. These will all go to waste, and that would be a loss for everybody. So it has to be done properly, and it has to have the right cold chain supply. So maybe Moderna would be a better one to send. It doesn't have to be as frozen, but also, Moderna is not the one that's going to children right now. It probably will go to children in September.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: All right. Dr. Hes, thank you.