Paediatricians and families in the United States are eagerly waiting to see whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will authorize a COVID-19 vaccine for the nation’s roughly 28 million 5- to 11-year-olds. Yesterday, an FDA advisory committee reviewed data from a clinical trial testing a low-dose version of the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech on children in that age group — and voted nearly unanimously to recommend that the FDA grant the shot emergency approval.
Early last year, children’s hospitals across New York City had to pivot to deal with a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak. “We all had to quickly learn — or semi-learn — how to take care of adults,” says Betsy Herold, a paediatric infectious-disease physician who heads a virology laboratory at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The reason: while hospitals across the city were bursting with patients, paediatric wards were relatively quiet. Children were somehow protected from the worst of the disease.
Data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from hospitals across the country suggest that people under the age of 18 have accounted for less than 2% of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 — a total of 3,649 children between March 2020 and late August 2021. Some children do get very sick, and more than 420 have died in the United States, but the majority of those with severe illness have been adults — a trend that has been borne out in many parts of the world.