May 12, 2021

safe and effective

Not everything over the past year has been negative. I, for one, have been impressed with the magic of science and the rapid progress made on vaccines and treatments. Truly astonishing.

Today that progress was made more clear when the ACIP, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, recommended the use of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine in children age 12 and up. The ACIP is an independent board that reviews data from the research studies showing safety and efficacy, as well as “evidence to recommend” the use of a vaccine.

The meeting was live and watchable, the CDC has posted the slides from the meeting on their website. Of particular interest is the efficacy data that shows children between 12 and 15 had an even better response to the vaccine than 16 to 25 year olds. The slides on EtR or “evidence to recommend” are reassuring because they look at the pluses and minuses of using the vaccine.

They ended the presentation with data showing the trends in the US of which variant strains are more prevalent and describe the differences in “Variants of Interest”, Variants of Concern, and Variants of High Consequence. They show that the B.1.1.7, the UK strain, is now the predominant strain in the US. This matters because it is more transmissible and has increased infections in younger people, but the vaccine still works against it, compelling reason for approving the PfizerBioNTech vaccine for kids 12 and older. The process of approval for these vaccines has been as rigorous as with any prior vaccine. One reason is was fast was because the numbers of infections due to pandemic sped up data collection.

One of my new favorite bloggers, Katelyn Jetelina, who blogs at “Your Local Epidemiologist”, has a “Cliff Notes” version of the meeting. The study showed that the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 compared to placebo. Side effects were similar to the ones reported in adults. In the end, ACIP and the CDC recommend the PfizerBioNTech vaccines for kids. Moderna now has data showing efficacy as well in children and against variants. At some point soon, it will also ask for approval in children.

This is great news because it comes in time to get kids vaccinated by fall in time for school and will allow families time to enjoy the summer together. Some sites in our city already started giving it to kids today. This comes at a good time because we are in 4th wave here in Washington State with younger patients now more affected than older, due to the high percentage of older people who are vaccinated.

A big thing that will help the country is full authorization by the FDA for the PfizerBioNTech vaccine. The FDA is now reviewing the data from Pfizer. Once full approval happens, many vaccine hesitant will finally decide that enough data shows safety and get the vaccine, since it will no longer be considered “experimental”. Also, schools and businesses, and organizations like the military, can start requiring vaccinations, since it is no longer under emergency use. Little by little we are gaining ground.

Wash your hands, still! Don’t forget- apparently doctors are slowing down in their hand washing again. Cover your nose and keep safe six.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.