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Children's vaccines could be 'game changer' — but one big question remains

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized two vaccines for children 5 and younger, questions still linger about how many kids will actually receive shots.

Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, estimates between 15% to 20% of U.S. kids will get inoculated with the newly authorized vaccines from Pfizer (PFE)/BioNTech (BNTX) and Moderna (MRNA).

That prediction compares to 71% of the total eligible U.S. population being fully vaccinated — including 91.3% of U.S. adults over 65 years old.

"For those who want to protect their children, this is a game changer," Offit, a voting member of the FDA's vaccine advisory committee, told Yahoo Finance Thursday, a day before the FDA's official decision came down.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) reported that all states except Florida pre-ordered 3.8 million doses that could be distributed next week. A majority of those are Pfizer (PFE) doses.

With older kids' vaccinations, and boosters, lagging other age groups, it remains to be seen how many parents will choose to inoculate the youngest children now that the FDA has given final authorization to the doses. Just 30% of children ages 5-11 had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as of June 10.

'I think both of them will be three-dose vaccines'

The two options parents will face include two, 25-microgram doses one month apart, or three, 3-microgram doses with the first two delivered three weeks apart, and the third dose after two months.

Pfizer alerted the FDA of a low efficacy with two doses, an average of 28.3% among the age groups, and added a third dose two months later — boosting the efficacy to above 80% amid the Omicron wave.

A child is administered a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pediatric vaccine, in San Jose, Costa Rica February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Mayela Lopez - RC2QPS9DXBAB
A child is administered a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pediatric vaccine, in San Jose, Costa Rica February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Mayela Lopez - RC2QPS9DXBAB

At the FDA advisory committee's meeting recommending the vaccines on Wednesday, Offit said he worried parents wouldn't know the third dose for Pfizer — delivered two months after the second dose — was necessary to provide protection.

For its part, Moderna is currently testing the efficacy of a third dose for kids under 5.

"In the end, I think both of them will be three-dose vaccines," Offit said.

More broadly, Offit pointed out that Americans will have to come to terms with the fact that vaccines might not prevent COVID-19 altogether but do shield people from serious illness and death.

For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tested positive for COVID-19 himself but had mild enough symptoms that he was able to testify virtually at a three-hour hearing on Thursday.

"That's a good thing," Offit said. "That shows you that a man that's clearly at-risk, because he's over 80, is protected against serious illness."

Follow Anjalee on Twitter @AnjKhem

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