A committee of FDA experts on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve Moderna's two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6-17. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
June 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's committee of independent immunization experts voted to recommend Moderna's two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6-17 on Tuesday.
The committee unanimously voted to recommend the vaccine be made available to children aged 6 and older. If the FDA's commissioner signs off on the panel's recommendation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review the company's vaccine data and shots could become available as soon as next week.
Moderna's vaccine will be administered to adolescents in two shots, eight weeks apart, at the same dose as for adults, while children aged 6-11 will receive a half-dose.
Both Moderna and the panel assume a third booster dose will be encouraged later.
The shots for teenagers aged 12-17 had an estimated effectiveness of 90% against the original strain of COVID-19 and the Alpha variant, while the shots for children aged 6-11 had an estimated effectiveness of 76% at preventing illness from the Delta variant.
Committee member Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said the two doses were unlikely to protect against mild illness from Omicron's subvariants, but would likely prevent severe illness with a third dose.
"I think the benefits clearly outweigh the risks, but I say that with the comfort being provided that there will be a third dose," Offit said. "If that was not true, I wouldn't feel the same way. We're not in the same part of this pandemic anymore. It's a different time."
About 70% of U.S. children have been infected with COVID-19, according to FDA evidence from blood drawn during routine medical care, while about 30% of children aged 5-11 and teens aged 12-17 had been fully vaccinated as of early June with only Pfizer's vaccine available.
The FDA committee will meet again Wednesday to discuss making vaccines available for children younger than 5, the only group currently not eligible.