San Diego doctor on FDA panel details vote to approve COVID vaccine for young children


SAN DIEGO — An infectious disease doctor at Rady Children’s Hospital was on the FDA panel that voted to approve the Pfizer vaccine for young children.

Dr. Mark Sawyer is detailing what went into his decision to vote to approve the vaccine for 5- through 11-year-old children.

“We’re weighing the benefit of keeping kids out of the hospital, keeping them from getting long COVID versus the side effects of the vaccine, which are real and are there,” Sawyer said. “So there was a lot of debate about the risks and the benefits, but in the end the vote was 17 in favor with one abstention and nobody opposed.”

As of late October, more than 16,000 kids 0-18 years old have tested positive for the virus in San Diego County, which has a population of more than 3 million people. Tuesday’s vote clears the way for the CDC to weigh in with its own recommendations and parents may be able to vaccinate their children as early as next month.

“I do have a 5-year-old and I won’t be getting her, I wouldn’t be getting any of my kids an emergency use authorization vaccination,” said Sharon McKeeman, founder of the group Let Them Breathe, which has staged so-called “mask choice” rallies outside of school board meetings for months.

“I definitely would want to see long-term studies and really see there being enough of a risk to them that it would be something that’s necessary and know that it’s definitely something that is safe and I don’t think that has been proven at this point,” McKeeman said.

Once authorized, roughly 28 million more children would be eligible for the vaccine. Sawyer said anyone who is hesitant should turn to licensed medical professionals.

“For those who have questions or doubts about the vaccine and whether it’s a good idea, they should talk to their child’s doctor,” Sawyer said. “That’s the best source of good information, not going on the internet and trying to figure out what’s the good information and what’s the bad information. Just go talk to your child’s doctor — they will be well versed in the risks versus the benefits.”

The CDC is expected to address the vaccines for kids 5-11 next week and doctors expect to be able to prescribe the vaccine by mid-November.

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