An independent advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has voted to approve the coronavirus vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech for use on adolescents ages 12 through 15. Once CDC director Rochelle Walensky approves the vote’s results — a green light that is expected on Wednesday — shots can be administered to children in that age range at any site authorized to give them out to adults.
The vote, with 14 yeas and one recusal, comes two days after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency-use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine, the first of the three candidates to conduct trials with adolescents; the Pfizer shot is currently the only one authorized to be given out to kids under 18. In data published by the CDC on the 2,300-person trial of 12-to-15-year-olds, the vaccine had a 100 percent efficacy rate for “symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19,” another substantial piece of evidence that the vaccines halt the transmission of the virus.
The vaccination of adolescents will play a major part in the effort to return all students to physical classrooms next school year. A survey released by the Education Department last week found that in March, 54 percent of public schools below high school were offering full-time education to any student who wanted it. The higher the vaccination rate is among teenagers, the more likely it is that schools and summer camps can relax social-distancing restrictions as well as masking, though it is almost certain that face coverings will still be required in schools in the fall.
On Wednesday, the CDC also ruled that patients can get other vaccine shots alongside doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Previously, the agency had ruled that there be a 14-day window between a COVID shot and other vaccines.
But as Dr. Kate Woodworth, a general pediatrician at the CDC’s Division of Birth Defects and Infant Disorders, told CNN, adverse immune responses to the shot are “generally similar when vaccines are administered simultaneously as when they are administered alone.” Such a ruling is important for adolescents receiving a Pfizer dose who also may be scheduled to receive vaccines to prevent HPV, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.