WASHINGTON — Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday asked the federal government to begin the approval process for a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5.
The companies said in a joint statement they began the rolling submission process for an emergency use authorization at the request of the Food and Drug Administration “in response to the urgent public health need in this population.”
While the approval process is underway for the two-dose regimen, the company will continue researching a third dose that would likely be given at least eight weeks after a child receives the second dose.
Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in the statement that increasing infections and hospitalizations of young children led the two companies to begin the approval process.
“As hospitalizations of children under 5 due to COVID-19 have soared, our mutual goal with the FDA is to prepare for future variant surges and provide parents with an option to help protect their children from this virus,” Bourla said.
“Ultimately, we believe that three doses of the vaccine will be needed for children 6 months through 4 years of age to achieve high levels of protection against current and potential future variants.”
Bourla said that if the FDA authorizes the two doses, that would allow parents to begin vaccinating their young children while waiting on approval of a third dose.
The submission announcement on Tuesday comes sooner than previously expected.
In mid-December, Pfizer and BioNTech announced they were modifying their trial to include a third dose of the vaccine for children between 2 and 4 years old after the two-dose approach didn’t lead to the type of immune response researchers sought. The trial did, however, produce the levels desired in children between six months and 2 years old.
The company said at the time that if the three-dose trial was successful, it would likely submit its emergency use request to the federal government in the first half of 2022.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, then said last week that parents needed to be patient in waiting for approval of the vaccine for younger children.
“I don’t think we can predict when we will see an [emergency use authorization] with that because the company is still putting the data before the FDA,” Fauci said during a White House briefing on the pandemic.
A poll released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicated about 31 percent of parents would get their small children vaccinated immediately.
Another 29 percent said they would wait and see while 12 percent said only if required and 26 percent of respondents said they definitely would not give their young child the vaccine.