Following the US Food and Drug Administration’s decision on May 10 to extend emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to include 12- to 15-year olds, the Centers for Disease Control added its recommendation that teens in that age group should be vaccinated with the shot.
The expert panel of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices makes immunization recommendations, and determined that based on the evidence from a study of more than 2200 teens conducted by Pfizer-BioNTech, that the vaccine was safe and effective. During the day-long meeting, however, the members discussed whether to allow vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot along with other vaccinations teens may need to get, including against HPV, hepatitis and meningitis. Currently, out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that people not get other vaccines 14 days before or after the COVID-19 dose. But based on the safety seen from hundreds of millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine given around the world so far, the CDC proposed to the immunization committee that this requirement be relaxed to allow people, including teens, to now get other vaccines, such as the flu shot, potentially even on the same day as they get their COVID-19 dose. That’s especially important for teens, who might have missed doses of required vaccines over the past year; when they come in for their COVID-19 vaccine, it might be a good opportunity to catch them up on any missed ones as well.
Some members of the committee, however, expressed concern over the lack of strong data looking at the effect of administering the COVID-19 vaccine with other shots. “I advocate for studies by the manufacturers to give us better data on immunogenicity and safety in co administering COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, or administering within 14 days of each other,” Dr. Grace Lee, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, said during the discussion. “We have safety data on more than 150 million people, which is huge, but that’s primarily in adults. We are about to embark on a journey with younger and younger kids who might be different than adults in their response.” Lee noted, for example, that younger children have been more prone to developing an inflammatory syndrome when they are naturally infected with SARS-CoV-2, and therefore it’s not entirely clear how children who have recovered from COVID-19 might react to the vaccine, not to mention those who haven’t been infected yet.
That’s the type of data that health officials will be collecting as more teens and, eventually, younger children are vaccinated if the shots are deemed safe for them. In the meantime, the committee determined that the benefits of vaccinating teens against COVID-19, even if they are vaccinated against other diseases at the same time, outweigh the potential risks. “This brings us one step closer to obtaining immunity, and bringing the pandemic closer to the end,” said Dr. Jose Romero, chair of the committee and director of the Arkansas Department of Health and professor of pediatrics at University of Arkansas.