CDC panel recommends Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 and over


Should teens be a special population?

At least one ACIP panel member — Henry Bernstein, DO, MHCM, FAAP — said he was concerned that backing use of the vaccine in 16- and 17-year-olds was a leap of faith, given that Pfizer had extremely limited data on this cohort.

Bernstein, professor of pediatrics at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Hempstead, New York, also said that systemic reactions were more common in that age group.

He argued for making the 16- and 17-year-olds a “special population” that would get specific attention and guidance for vaccination from the federal agencies and professional societies.

Bernstein said he did not want to sow any more doubts in parents’ minds about vaccination, noting that hesitancy was a growing concern. “A successful pediatric vaccination program depends on creating and sustaining parental confidence in both the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine,” he said.

Many panelists, however, noted that there has been no evidence to suggest that the vaccine is not safe or less effective in that younger age group.

Yvonne Maldonado, MD, the American Academy of Pediatrics representative on the panel, said that this age group should not be denied the vaccine as they often have essential or front-line jobs that put them at higher risk for infection.

“I am very concerned about this message being sent out that this vaccine will not be safe in children,” said Maldonado, professor of pediatrics and health research and policy at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

“We currently have no evidence that that is the case,” she said, adding there is also no indication younger children are biologically or physiologically different in their response or safety risk than 18-year-olds.

Vaccine = hope

Committee members breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the 2-day meeting, saying that although the Pfizer vaccine is not perfect, it represents a scientific milestone and a significant advance against the continuing march of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

“This vaccine and future vaccines do provide a promise for a lot of progress in the future,” said panelist Beth P. Bell, MD, MPH, clinical professor of global health at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle.

Peter Szilagyi, MD, MPH, executive vice-chair and vice-chair for research at the University of California, Los Angeles pediatrics department, said, “I’m really hopeful that this is the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“The need for this vaccine is profound,” said Veronica McNally, president and CEO of the Franny Strong Foundation in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

The ACIP panel also made the argument that while the at least $10 billion spent on vaccine development by the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed alone has been a good investment, more spending is needed to actually get Americans vaccinated.

The imbalance between the two is “shocking and needs to be corrected,” said Bell. “We are not going to be able to protect the American public if we don’t have a way to deliver the vaccine to them.”

This article first appeared on Medscape.com.


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