Fauci says children under 5 could be authorised for Pfizer vaccine in weeks

Fauci says children under 5 could be authorised for Pfizer vaccine in weeks
The US has seen record hospitalisations among children below 5 years due to the surge in Omicron cases

Children under five years are likely to be given Covid-19 vaccines by next month, according to White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci.

At a townhall interview on Wednesday with Blue Star Families, a nonprofit that supports military families, the US’s top infectious diseases expert said vaccines for children from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech could soon be rolled out.

“My hope is that it’s going to be within the next month or so and not much later than that, but I can’t guarantee that,” Dr Fauci was quoted as saying by CNBC.

He added that younger children would likely need three doses, because two shots did not induce an adequate immune response in 2- to 4-year-olds in Pfizer’s clinical trials.

Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech said they were testing three doses of vaccine for children below five years instead of the two doses that are given to teenagers and adults.

One version of the Pfizer vaccine for children, which is a third of the dose given to adults and teens, is available for 5-11 year olds.

The company is planning to submit its findings to the Food and Drug Administration in the first half of this year.

Dr Fauci’s comments come as the Omicron variant surges across the US with record numbers of hospitalisations among children.

The hospitalisation rate in children below five has surged to more than four in 100,000 youngsters, Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) data showed.

CDC director Rochelle Walenksy had said at a White House briefing earlier this month that while children still have the lowest rate of hospitalisation of any age group, “pediatric hospitalisations are at their highest rate compared to any prior point in the pandemic.”

She added that this was likely due to the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

In a statement earlier this month, Dr Fauci had said many children hospitalised with Covid have other health conditions including obesity, diabetes and lung disease that make them more susceptible to complications from the virus.

Both the CDC and Dr Fauci have said vaccines are the best way to protect against severe disease.