Head of CDC tells Local 10 about inching closer to getting vaccine approved for kids

Once the Centers for Disease Control's panel approves the Pfizer version of the COVID-19 for kids, the final decision rests with the CDC's director.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, talked to Local 10 ahead of a CDC meeting to decide if the COVID-19 vaccine will get the green light to be administered to children ages 5 to 11.

“I think it’s really important to understand how important this vaccine is for that age group,” Walensky said.

We asked Walensky if she believed that the CDC would approve Pfizer’s vaccine for kids as early as Tuesday.

Her response?

“I certainly don’t want to get ahead of the process. I was encouraged to hear deliberations of the advisory committee from the (Food and Drug Administration) that was generally very positive in moving forward,” Walensky said.

On Friday, the FDA granted emergency use authorization of Pfizer shots for children ages 5 to 11. Pfizer said their study of 2,200 children showed that their version of the vaccine is nearly 91 percent effective in protecting against coronavirus.

Even younger children than the current group could be in line to get the shot in the not so far off future.

Dr. William Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said: “We have work ongoing to extend the vaccine to even younger children and we hope to begin to provide some of the that data by the end of this year,” he said.

Children ages five to 11 have seen more than 8,000 hospitalizations due to the virus with one third of them requiring stays in the intensive care unit.

It is also one of the Top 10 causes of death for that age group.

“We’ve lost over 700 children to COVID-19 and, to just put that in perspective, in a given flu season we generally lose 100 to 200 children to influenza.”

Once approved by the CDC, kids in the five to 11 age group will be eligible get two doses of the vaccine 21 days apart.

Each shot is 10 micrograms, which is a third of the size used for people ages 12 and older.

But before the approval, the CDC will have to “review the data from the clinical trial. They will review the risk-benefit data, the safey profile of these vaccines,” Walensky said.

Once the CDC panel votes to approve the Pfizer version for kids five to 11, the final decision rests with Walensky.

If all goes as expected, kids could get the vaccine sometime later this week.

About the Author:

Ben Kennedy is an Emmy Award-winning Washington Bureau Chief for Local 10 News. He has more than a decade of reporting experience nationwide.