Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine could soon be used in adolescents aged 12-15

The Food and Drug Administration could approve Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 as early as next week. Dr. Julie Morita, a pediatrician and the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, joined CBSN's Tanya Rivero with more on how this could impact herd immunity.

Video Transcript

TANYA RIVERO: The FDA is soon expected to authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15. According to a federal health official, the decision could come early next week. Pfizer says the shot had 100% efficacy in children as young as 12 years old and with similar side effects to what occurred in young adults.

CBS News' Skyler Henry reports from the White House.

SKYLER HENRY: A federal health official tells CBS News the FDA plans to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children age 12 to 15 as early as next week.

ASHISH JHA: I have two kids in that age range, and they're both very excited to get it. And I'm happy for them to get it, because I really do think these vaccines are both remarkably effective and quite safe.

SKYLER HENRY: Pfizer says clinical trials showed the vaccine was 100% effective in children that age and is well-tolerated.

REGINALD WASHINGTON: The antibody response is actually higher than the antibody response we've observed in adults, young adults. And, also, there were no positive cases in the study group with the data that I've been able to obtain.

SKYLER HENRY: Pfizer and Moderna are now running clinical trials for kids six months old and older. This comes as the number of adults getting vaccinated continues to drop to an average of about 2.3 million doses per day. That's down from a high of more than 3 million doses per day just last month.

REGINALD WASHINGTON: To reach herd immunity, we need a certain number of the general population, including this age group, to be vaccinated.

SKYLER HENRY: But the number of new coronavirus cases is dropping as well, prompting more states to lift all COVID restrictions.

RON DESANTIS: I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point-- if you're saying that, you really are saying you don't believe in the vaccines.

SKYLER HENRY: But health officials are still urging caution, as the variants of the virus are now spreading among unvaccinated young adults.

Skyler Henry, CBS News, the White House.

TANYA RIVERO: For more on this, I want to bring in Dr. Julie Morita. She is a pediatrician as well as the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a former member of the Biden administration's COVID-19 advisory board.

Dr. Morita, great to see you. Thank you for joining us.

So what do parents need to know who will soon be able to choose whether or not to vaccinate their 12- to 15-year-olds against COVID? Is this Pfizer dose the exact same dose that adults receive?

JULIE MORITA: Hi, Tanya. Thanks for having me again.

I think this is really exciting news. Because when we think about COVID and how it's impacted children, we really haven't paid that much attention to it in the past. But we do know that millions of children have been infected. Thousands of children have actually gotten the serious inflammatory infection. And then, also, hundreds of children have actually died because of COVID. So children have been affected by the COVID virus. They just haven't been as seriously affected as adults have been in the past.

This vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, has proven to be effective, has proven to be safe in the real world. And so parents should embrace the vaccine's availability, and I encourage all parents to get the vaccines when they're available for the children at the appropriate ages.

TANYA RIVERO: And in terms of the dose, is that the exact same dose that adults receive, or is it slightly less? Is there any adjustment at all?

JULIE MORITA: I'm not actually sure to be honest with you. I think what I'd have to do is see the studies themselves to look at what the actual dosing range has been. Sometimes the vaccines do have to be adjusted down so that-- because children have such strong immune responses, the actual dose may actually be lower than what adults have gotten in the past. And I'm not sure what the trials actually did with this particular product.

In any case though, the results that we're hearing about in the press releases suggest that the dose that's being administered to children has been highly effective in terms of really strong immune responses and also a lack of disease that children who have been vaccinated have had.

TANYA RIVERO: And that certainly is great news. Now, many health experts, Doctor, are warning we may never reach herd immunity. What impact could vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds have in helping us get there?

JULIE MORITA: Yes, I mean, I think-- as we think about the ways that people get the vaccines when they're children, our kind of established systems, children are used to going to their primary care doctors. They're used to getting their vaccines routinely to get into school, to allow them to play sports. And so, really, what I'm looking for is for the federal government and for the state and local governments to be getting vaccine into the hands of their pediatric providers, those who administer the vaccines to them routinely, but also making the vaccine available in alternative places for children that don't have a pediatric provider or don't have a doctor that they usually go to, so, really, keeping the opportunities and the options broad and available so that all children have access.

TANYA RIVERO: And, Dr. Morita, CBS News has learned more than 20 states are not ordering all the available COVID-19 doses that were allocated to them by the federal government. Is this a concerning statistic to you?

JULIE MORITA: Well, we've done a fantastic job in terms of getting people vaccinated, and so we have now more than 44% of adults-- 44% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 30% have actually been fully vaccinated. So there's relatively high rates of vaccination.

There are still a lot of people who need to be vaccinated, but we certainly don't want lots of vaccine sitting around unused in health care facilities or in places where it can't be stored and handled appropriately. So I'd rather see the vaccine be held in a central place where it can be handled and stored appropriately until the vaccine is ready to be used.

With the approval of the vaccine-- the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, I think the demand for the vaccine will go up, and we'll be able to use-- those 20 states will probably increase the vaccine that they're ordering because the demand will be much higher.

TANYA RIVERO: All right. Well, Dr. Julie Morita, thank you so much for joining us. As always, we appreciate your expertise.

JULIE MORITA: Thanks so much.