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Pfizer says its COVID-19 is over 90% effective in kids ages 5-11

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Vaccine maker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech say their COVID vaccine is more than 90% effective in children ages 5 through 11. And the companies say their data supports authorization of the vaccine for this age group, which could come as soon as next week. NPR's Allison Aubrey joins us now with the latest. Welcome back, Allison.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Hi there, Audie.

CORNISH: What exactly does the clinical trial data from Pfizer in particular show about vaccinations in children from this age group?

AUBREY: Sure. Data from more than 2,000 children shows the vaccine was about 91% effective against symptomatic infection. There were no cases of serious illness, no cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Children received one-third of the dose of adults, which was enough to be effective but also chosen to minimize side effects. Now, I spoke to pediatrician David Kimberlin of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is also a liaison representative to the CDC's Vaccine Advisory Committee.

DAVID KIMBERLIN: Having this vaccine available for 5- through 11-year-olds is not only going to protect the child but also protect the child's loved ones. You know, we've already lost over 500 children to this virus. Now with this likely authorization over the next week or two, I really think we're going to have a tool to be able to prevent that.

AUBREY: He says while it is true that most children have only mild illness from the virus, there have been more than 1.8 million cases among 5- to 11-year-olds and thousands of hospitalizations among this age group. Now, the soonest an authorization would come is next week. Remember; advisers to the FDA need to review all this data. The agency needs to make a determination.

CORNISH: So if it's authorized in the coming days, how will this work in terms of distribution?

AUBREY: Sure. Pediatricians have been preparing for this for months, and thousands are already offering the vaccine to older kids 12 and up in their offices. In addition, retail pharmacies are ready, too. A spokesperson for CVS tells me they are prepared to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds. Now, remember; it's a lower dose. It's a different product. Pfizer has designed orange packaging for the new vials. I spoke to pediatrician Lee Savio Beers. She's president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She tells me it's going to take a bit of time to get the new pediatric vaccines distributed.

LEE SAVIO BEERS: It does appear that there is plenty of vaccine supply available, but I think also for parents to know that it won't be instantaneous as soon as the vaccine is recommended by the CDC. You know, it may be a day or two or three before everything is really fully up and running.

AUBREY: So bottom line, Audie, be patient.

CORNISH: But you're saying that, like, there's a pent-up demand. I mean, do pediatricians think most families will actually bring their 5- to 11-year-olds in to get a COVID vaccine?

AUBREY: Well, about 44% of adolescents 12 to 17 years old have been fully vaccinated, so that's one data point. And a recent poll from the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project found about two-thirds of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds do plan to vaccinate their children. Now, this poll was done before there was data out to show the vaccine appears to be safe and effective. Here's Dr. Kimberlin again.

KIMBERLIN: I would expect we're still going to have kind of that initial rush of 20 or 30% of the population rushing out to get the vaccine, another, you know, pretty substantial chunk holding back for a while. And hopefully a small percentage, but a percentage will say, no, we're never going to get that for our child.

AUBREY: Now, Kimberlin says he hopes that this careful process of evaluation by the FDA and CDC will give parents confidence to opt for the vaccine. So, again, what is expected next week is for the FDA to weigh in on authorization, followed by CDC recommendations in early November.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Allison Aubrey. Thanks so much.

AUBREY: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.