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COVID vaccine for kids under 5 delayed until at least April

7 year old Lydia Melo gets COVID-19 vaccine at Duke. (Photo credit: Duke University)

WASHINGTON — A COVID-19 vaccine for young children will be delayed by at least two months as Pfizer and BioNTech gather more information on a three-dose regimen.

The disappointing news for many parents came after the Biden administration earlier had announced it was preparing to get the vaccines out to states as soon as it could following federal approval.

The pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration released separate statements Friday saying a review of the vaccine for children under 5 years old will likely not take place until early April.

“Based on the agency’s preliminary assessment, and to allow more time to evaluate additional data, we believe additional information regarding the ongoing evaluation of a third dose should be considered as part of our decision-making for potential authorization,” the FDA said in a statement.

The FDA said it would postpone the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday to “??give the agency time to consider the additional data, allowing for a transparent public discussion as part of our usual scientific and regulatory processes for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Pfizer and BioNTech began submitting data to the FDA on a two-dose regimen for children under 5 earlier this month at the request of the agency.

Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said at the time the company would submit data on a two-dose regimen while it continued researching a three-dose regimen.

“Ultimately, we believe that three doses of the vaccine will be needed for children 6 months through 4 years of age to achieve high levels of protection against current and potential future variants,” he said on Feb. 1.

The Biden administration immediately began getting ready for approval of the emergency use authorization request. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients said the next day the federal government was preparing to ship the vaccine to states as soon as it was approved.

“Following FDA authorization, we would immediately begin packing and shipping doses to states and health care providers,” Zients said, noting the federal government had already “secured ample doses and the necessary needles and supplies” designed for this age group.

The White House was also preparing to work with local and state health officials as well as pediatricians to distribute information about the vaccine, including to hesitant parents.

That process now won’t get underway until at least April, as Pfizer and BioNTech gather more data on what will likely be a three-shot vaccine.

“Given that the study is advancing at a rapid pace, the companies will wait for the three-dose data as Pfizer and BioNTech continue to believe it may provide a higher level of protection in this age group,” the companies said in a statement. “The companies expect to have three-dose protection data available in early April.”

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COVID vaccine for kids under 5 delayed until at least April