Will young kids be vaccinated in time for holiday travel? Here’s what we know

Sep 20, 2021

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Pfizer announced it would soon seek authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on Monday, Sept. 20, sparking a vaccination timeline that may result in kids being able to get at least one dose of the vaccine in time for holiday travel.

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Following the release of positive clinical results from a COVID-19 vaccine trial in children ages 5 to 11, showing that the vaccine was “safe, well tolerated and showed robust neutralizing antibody responses,” Pfizer said it plans to submit such data to both the U.S. Food and Drug Association and European Medicines Agency, in hopes that the regulatory agencies will authorize the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in the United States and European Union.

The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 and older in August, and it remains under emergency use authorization for those 12 to 15 years old.

On Sept. 10, FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said the agency would review the data to determine its safety and effectiveness in a “matter of weeks,” and that he was “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for younger kids would be “underway by year’s end,” per the Associated Press.

For children under 5, Pfizer said it expects to issues clinical trial results for the 6 months-2 years and 2-5 years age groups “as soon as later this year,” meaning the vaccine could be authorized for use for every age group by early 2022.

The updated timeline certainly helps with the start of this fall’s school year, which the AP noted has been marked by a “huge jump in pediatric infections caused by the extra-contagious delta variant,” and it may get a lot easier for families with younger flyers to safely travel this holiday season.

“Pfizer’s data submission and FDA approval for the 5-11 age group would hopefully allow the first dose to be administered by end of October or early November,” said Dr. Jenny Yu, senior manager of medical integrity for Healthline Media. “Dependent on production, availability and parents’ willingness, it is feasible to think that by Christmas, kids of that age group can be protected fully.”

This is great news for families considering travel for this upcoming holiday season, although it suggests the 5-11 age group will likely be only partially vaccinated by Thanksgiving. Although Christmas travel could be more feasible, Yu cautions against families traveling with members who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The FDA previously expanded emergency use authorization for the vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15 on May 10, saying “the known and potential benefits of this vaccine in individuals 12 years of age and older outweigh the known and potential risks, supporting the vaccine’s use in this population.” Since then, the Pfizer vaccine has been widely available in the U.S. for anyone over the age of 12.

Related: US will allow vaccinated British, EU travelers from November

“I would not think one shot would be enough for travel in December as we are still anticipating another uptick in numbers in the winter as globally vaccination rates are low and we still have high infection rates in this country,” Yu said.

Because the second dose of a two-dose vaccine likely will not be available until after the holidays, families should consider booking refundable award tickets and remember that many U.S. airlines have waived change fees and modified cancellation policies to offer more flexibility during the pandemic.

Read more: Is it time to cancel your next family vacation?

Featured photo of a boy in Ecuador receiving the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Sept. 13 by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images.

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