As Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine continues to be distributed throughout the country, there are still some questions regarding whether the drug should be administered to pregnant women and 16 and 17-year-olds. An independent committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted on Saturday afternoon to recommend to the CDC that the drug be administered to these two groups.
The decision has yet to be approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield, but it’s a clear indication that hospitals may begin inoculating these two groups soon. Here’s what you need to know.
The CDC Advisory Committee Has Spoken
The advisory committee to the CDC meets several times a year to discuss various vaccination issues, including amendments and scheduling for child, adolescent, and adult vaccines. Members of the committee took part in marathon-style meetings Friday and Saturday night to discuss some still unanswered questions regarding the new Pfizer vaccine, which was just approved for emergency use by the FDA on Friday night.
The committee identified three specific groups of patients that may need more information before taking the vaccine, including:
- Young adults ages 16 and 17
- Pregnant women and those currently lactating
- Individuals with severe allergies or patients who have had an anaphylactic reaction to other vaccines
CDC officials will review the findings and information provided during the meeting before releasing specific guidelines for these groups.
As for young people ages 16 and 17, concern has been expressed over the fact that Pfizer doesn’t have a lot of data analyzing how the drug affects these individuals.
However, some members were quick to point out that there isn’t much of a physiological difference between an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old.
The discussion quickly turned into one of race. Some members argued that younger essential workers, such as those working in grocery stores, may disproportionately be people of color, and withholding the drug would put them at a disadvantage.
Considering the vaccine has been shown to be around 95% effective at preventing serious illness, the benefits of having a 16-year-old take the drug, such as keeping them in school and limiting the transmission of the virus, could outweigh the potential risks of the vaccine.
There’s still a lot we don’t know in terms of how the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine will affect pregnant women and those currently lactating. Pregnant women were not included in the company’s clinical trial.
The first doses of the drug will go towards frontline workers, and the group estimates that around 330,000 of them will either be pregnant or lactating. Members of the committee agreed that the decision whether to get vaccinated should be left to the mother and their doctor. They recommend that patients weigh their personal risk of being exposed to the virus against the efficacy of the vaccine and the lack of data about it with respect to pregnancy.
Pfizer representatives released information from the clinical trial that suggests the drug does not affect gestation or fertility. The company says around two dozen women involved in the trial got pregnant after taking the vaccine, and they are monitoring them closely.
Patients with Allergies
The committee also focused its attention on patients with severe allergies after two British healthcare workers suffered severe allergic reactions immediately after receiving the drug.
Members of the group were careful to address specific concerns without needlessly worrying the public regarding a possible allergic reaction.
The group finally settled on a solution. Patients with severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, to any ingredient used in the drug shouldn’t receive it. They also recommend that patients be monitored for 15 minutes after receiving the shot. Patients with anaphylaxis should be monitored for 30 minutes after getting inoculated.
The CDC is getting ready to release more information on administering the Pfizer vaccine to these three groups in the coming days. In the meantime, officials have released a vaccine tool kit for providers and patients, filled with pertinent information regarding the safety of the vaccine.