White House Covid czar says jabs for young children could be available as early as June 21

The White House’s chief Covid coordinator said Thursday that jabs for children as young as six months old could be available as early June 21 if applications for the shots are approved by regulators in the coming weeks.

Dr Ashish Jha, who was recently appointed as the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a briefing that shots for the youngest eligible Americans could be rolling out in only three weeks.

His statements come on the back of Pfizer, manufacturer of America’s most popular vaccine and the only one to be available to those aged five to 17 in the U.S., announcing Wednesday night that it has completed its application for its three dose vaccine in children six months to four years old.

If approved by regulators at both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it would make America the country with the lowest vaccine eligibility age in the world.

Experts are split on whether this age group needs the shots, though, as the risk they face from the virus is extremely limited. Key advisors that will weigh in on the decision tell DailyMail.com that it is too early for them to decide whether they will approve the shots. 

Dr Ashish Jha (pictured), the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said that he expects the jabs for children aged six months to five years old to be available as early as June 21

Pfizer revealed preliminary data last month showing the vaccine was 80 percent effective at preventing infection from Omicron, though the efficacy rate may change as more trial participants need to be infected before the figures can be finalized.

Jha said that the White House is already working with states, pharmacies and physicians to facilitate the rollout of the jabs.

The Pfizer jab will come in three doses, unlike the two dose standard set for older age groups. It will also be only three micrograms, a tenth of the size of the standard adult dose, and a third of dosage for children five through 12.

The switch was made towards the end of last year when early data showed that only two doses of the jab provided little protection against the virus. 

Dr Cody Meissner (pictured), the chief of pediatrics at Tufts Children's Hospital and member of VRBPAC, says that with the currently available COVID-19 vaccines, herd immunity is not possible

Dr Cody Meissner (pictured), the chief of pediatrics at Tufts Children’s Hospital and member of VRBPAC, says that with the currently available COVID-19 vaccines, herd immunity is not possible

In order for the jabs to get into the arms of children, it will first need approval from both the FDA and the CDC.

Later this month, the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet on both June 14 and 15 to discuss the shots.

The committee, which has been more skeptical of the vaccine rollout than the CDC and other health officials, was passed over on the decision to approve booster shots for five to 11 year olds and fourth doses people 50 and older.

The decision to skip VRBPAC was a controversial one, with members like Dr Eric Rubin, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Dr Paul Offit, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, both speaking out against the approval.

When asked about the recent submission by Pfizer, Offit told DailyMail.com that he would need to review the data first before issuing an opinion.

Dr Cody Meissner, also a VRBPAC member representing Tufts Children’s Hospital, told DailyMail.com that ‘it will be an interesting discussion,’ on whether or not the shots get approved.

‘Does the potential benefits in vaccinating that group justify any harm? That’s the question that I think everybody will be thinking,’ he added.

He said that the White House announcing the June 21 date will not pressure the committee into approving the doses, saying that their positions come independent of political pressure.

Meissner did say, as he has in the past, that he does not believe that herd immunity is possible, and that vaccinating everyone to stop transmission of the virus will not happen.

Because the vaccines are tailored more to prevent serious infection that causes hospitalization or death, and not infection itself all-together, there will still be some transmission of the virus even if only asymptomatic.

This raises an interesting question for many officials. If the vaccines can not prevent transmission of the virus outright, and many children suffer limited risk from the virus anyways, then what reason would there to be to approve the jabs.

For the mRNA vaccines in particular – the Moderna and Pfizer shots – the CDC warns that young males who receive the shots suffer a very small but still existent risk of developing heart inflammation. 

Meissner also expressed concerns over the newness of the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer jab.

In February he told DailyMail.com that: ‘we don’t have any experience with these [mRNA] vaccines in young children … I’m very hopeful that they will turn out to be equally safe and equally effective [as they were for adults], but we don’t know that.’

The technology has existed for decades, but was largely ignored by the medical community until it was implemented by Moderna and Pfizer for the Covid shots.

In the time since, it has been investigated as the base of a potential HIV, flu and cancer vaccines, but because of its limited past use there is no data on how it can affect a person decades down the line. 

Risks of the jab hurting people in the future are extremely small, though.

Some are also concerned about the small sample size used for the trial. When Pfizer first got its jab approved for adults at the end of 2020, trial data included over 40,000 participants.

For these trials, just over 1,500 children aged six months to five years old were recruited – a significantly smaller sample. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk