PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Kids make up the fastest growing segment of new COVID-19 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With Wednesday's unanimous thumbs-up from a CDC advisory group, officials now say the Pfizer vaccine is not only safe for ages 12 and up, it is necessary.
While many independent vaccine providers were waiting for the CDC approval, sites run by Montgomery and Bucks counties made the Pfizer shot available to people ages 12 and up immediately after the FDA gave the green light.
The data from Pfizer's study of kids 12 to 15 years old found the vaccine to be 100% effective. The vote was 14-0 with one abstention, as the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) agreed the benefits of the vaccine for adolescents outweigh any risks, which are generally described as minor.
Also in Wednesday's committee meeting, researchers said they have found it safe give the COVID-19 vaccine to kids at the same time as other vaccines. Pediatricians on the committee say that could be a big help to parents, because many children have fallen behind on routine vaccinations during the pandemic.
Following the vote, committee members stressed how important it is that a coronavirus vaccine be available for children to help them get back to normal.
"This is one more step closer to community immunity and bringing the pandemic closer to the end," said ACIP chair Dr. Jose Romero.
"There’s been such a focus on older adults in particular. I think the childhood experience that our kids have gone through will have long lasting consequences," Dr. Grace Lee, a pediatrics professor at Stanford medical school, said.
The main focus of U.S. coronavirus response may have been on older age groups, but children are not immune, said the CDC's Dr. Megan Wallace.
While hospitalization rates aren’t as high for children, they represent the fastest growing segment of new coronavirus infections, she said.
"In April, 9% of cases were age 12-17 years, which actually represents a larger proportion of total cases than adults 65 years and over," Wallace said.
Further, COVID-19 killed 127 kids in that age group between January 2020 and April 2021, she said.
"While this sounds low, it’s worth noting this would still be in the top 10 causes of deaths among children in 2019, which is the last year we have top 10 causes of death for comparison," she said.