By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vaccines for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 will likely be available in the first half of November, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Sunday, predicting a timetable that could see many kids getting fully vaccinated before the end of the year.
"If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval and the recommendation from the CDC, it's entirely possible if not very likely that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November," Fauci said in an interview with ABC's This Week.
Food and Drug Administration officials are reviewing the Pfizer/BioNTech application seeking authorization of its 2-dose vaccine for younger children, with its panel of outside advisers scheduled to weigh in on October 26.
The FDA typically follows the advice of its panel but is not required to do so.
Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will weigh in on recommendations for the vaccine at a meeting on November 2 and November 3, helping to inform a final decision by its director.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, speaking on Fox News Sunday, also said the agency wanted to act swiftly.
"After they (FDA) are able to review all the science and conduct the regulatory action and the CDC will meet, and if all of that goes smoothly ... we will act quickly," she said.
"We know how many parents are interested in getting their children between 5 and 11 vaccinated and we intend to act as quickly as we can," she added.
Once authorized, roughly 28 million more children in the United States would be eligible to receive what would be the first U.S. COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids. The Pfizer/BioNTech shot is already available to those ages 12-17, and the companies are still studying it for children younger than 5.
While children have a lower rate of death from COVID-19, many face illness and long-term symptoms that are still being studied. Many adults who have been hesitant or opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine, and even some who did not oppose the vaccine for themselves, are expected to resist giving the shot to their children.
Asked if schools should mandate a vaccine for kids, Walensky said: "Right now we are at authorization. We're having discussions about authorization. I think we need to get children vaccinated through this authorization and get to approval before we can make a judgment there."
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Mark Porter)