BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — COVID vaccination for young children seems to be on its way.
Tuesday, an Food and Drug Administration panel unanimously voted to recommend a Pfizer vaccine designed specifically for children aged five to 11. The news does not come as a surprise — the recommendation was an expected step in the authorization of this vaccine for young children — but it allows the process to move forward.
The panel was asked to weigh the individual and society-wide benefits of vaccinating this age group against the risk of complications from the vaccine itself.
“It is pretty clear to me that the benefits do outweigh the risks,” NCIRD chief medical officer Capt. Amanda Cohn said during the panel.
Among these risks, the panel discussed myocarditis, an infection of the heart wall causing many to worry about the vaccine. Experts explained it’s much more dangerous to get COVID than to get the vaccine.
“(The virus) actually causes myocarditis at far higher rates than what we see with vaccination,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Celine Gounder said.
The authorization comes as COVID brings a new concern to public health experts in Kern County. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, is a condition linked to COVID, in which multiple organs, including the heart, lungs, and intestines, become severely inflamed. It’s been appearing among young children in Kern.
“What we’ve been seeing is that in young children, that COVID sometimes results in a child getting MIS-C,” Kern County Public Health director Brynn Carrigan said. “Specifically in Kern County, we’ve had 21 cases of MIS-C, and 57 percent of those cases had to have the child be in the ICU. Hospitalizations in this range anywhere from days to a number of months. It’s a very serious illness.”
Kern County Public Health says to their knowledge, no one has died from MISC locally, but 21 children across California have died from the condition. A total of 138 children have been hospitalized for COVID infections in Kern, with 107 of those cases between the ages of five and 18.
It’s important to note that Tuesday’s decision was not an official authorization of the vaccine. The FDA tends to follow the recommendations of advisory panels like this, but they’re a few days out from an official decision.