The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened public distribution for new Moderna’s two-dose coronavirus vaccines for younglings from kindergartners through high schoolers.
After thoroughly examining the Moderna shot’s safety and effectiveness, the CDC's committee of independent vaccine experts endorsed it for kids from 6 to 17 at Thursday’s public meeting. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the recommendation the next morning so that the shots could be up for administration. Vaccination for younger infants from 6 months to 5 years old is open this week, after the CDC endorsement.
Previously, when only Pfizer’s vaccine was open for children from kindergarteners to high schoolers, the uptake was lackluster---two-thirds of kids from 5 to 11 and 30% of adolescents from 12 to 17
According to the CDC, more than 600 kids have died from Covid, and more than 45000 hospitalized, with nearly 11 million children from age 5 to 17 who have caught Covid at some point during the epidemic.
Moderna requested administration for authorization on its vaccines for adolescents more than a year ago but was held off due to some countries’ concern that its shots might lead to a higher risk of heart inflammation or myocarditis than Pfizer shots.
No comparison between heart inflammation rates in kids for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was made yet because Moderna’s vaccine only got its authorization for adults up to this month. Still, there is data, though inconsistent across the various U.S surveillance systems, showing a slightly higher rate in myocarditis Moderna recipients.
“Some evidence suggests that myocarditis and pericarditis risks may be higher after Moderna than after Pfizer. However, the findings are not consistent in all US monitoring systems,” Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, an official at the CDC vaccine safety unit, told the committee.
635 cases of myocarditis among children from 5 to 17 have been identified by the CDC out of the 54 million Pfizer doses administered. For boys aging from 12 to 17, it is evident that myocarditis risk is higher after the second shot, and for boys aging from 5 to 11, the risk is also higher for those that have taken the second shot, although the increase is much lower than that of the adolescent group.
People who have developed myocarditis after vaccination are generally hospitalized as a precaution and then sent home a few days after observation. Most patients recover 90 days after the diagnosis. According to the CDC, the risk of myocarditis is higher from Covid infection than from vaccination. Myocarditis in children is typically caused by viral infections.
Dr. Sara Oliver claims that though data from adults show a higher risk of myocarditis after Moderna vaccination than after Pfizer vaccination, the risk in children and adolescents remains unknown. Oliver said that extending the interval between the two shots might lower the risk of infection.
The most common side effects among kids ages 6 to 17 during Moderna’s clinical trials were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, and nausea. There were no confirmed cases of myocarditis during the trials.
Though clinical trials were conducted during periods when other Covid strains were dominant, showing the effectiveness of shots to be 90% for adolescents from 12 to 17 years old in preventing illness from the original Covid strain and the alpha variant, and 76% for children aging from 6 to 11 years old in preventing illness from the delta variant, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s review, it is unclear how effective the shots would be against the omicron variant.
Current vaccines are less effective against the dominant omicron variant because of the variants’ mutations, but a third shot has significantly increased protection in other age groups. Moderna is now studying booster shots for kids this summer.
“We would expect to be addressing this gap in booster dose recommendations over the summer and into early fall,” said Dr. Doran Fink, a senior official at the FDA’s vaccine division.