Parents who thought their children under 5 would have to wait several more months for COVID-19 vaccinations instead just might get them as early as March. Here's what needs to happen first, and some things to expect if they do become available in the U.S.
Pfizer has asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize extra-low doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months through 4 years. The FDA will review the application and convene a panel of outside advisers in mid-February to debate the data. The FDA will use that advice in deciding whether the new doses are safe and effective enough for the youngest children.
But that's not the last step. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will gather its own expert panel to help decide if the shots should be recommended for this age group — and if so, for all of them or only those at higher risk from COVID-19.
Shots for children in this age group are one-tenth the size of the adult doses. That's even smaller than the doses given for 5- to 11-year-olds, which are one-third the dose. Pfizer will have to specially bottle the extra-low doses so vaccine providers don't mix them up with the two other dosages already being used.
Two doses or three?
Here's where this gets complicated. In December, Pfizer announced a setback: Preliminary study results showed two of the extra-low doses appeared strong enough to protect babies but weren't strong enough for 2- to 4-year-olds. The company added a third shot to the study, but results are not expected until late March.