Parents of children under 12 in the U.S. are still eagerly waiting for them to have access to COVID-19 vaccines, as the Food and Drug Administration's full approval of Pfizer's vaccine, granted on Monday, only applies to those 16 and up.
Research on the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and safety in kids this young is ongoing, but Dr. Anthony Fauci offered a tentative timeline on Tuesday as to when this process might be finished. When TODAY co-host Craig Melvin asked Fauci if it was possible his own children, Delano, 7, Sybil, 4, could be vaccinated by the winter holidays, the infectious disease physician answered, "there's a reasonable chance that'll be the case."
"What's going on right now is that the companies, both Pfizer and Moderna, at least ... working with the (National Institutes of Health), are working very hard to get data on both the safety, the correct dose, as well as ... the predictability that these vaccines will be effective," he explained. "We're collecting that data now. That data ultimately will be presented to the FDA to look at it for the balance between safety and risk-benefit ratio for the children."
"I hope all of that process will take place expeditiously and that we will have it on the timetable that you just mentioned, hopefully by the mid-late fall and early winter."
Pfizer's vaccine was authorized for kids 12 to 15 in May. On Monday, the CEO of the pharmaceutical company, Albert Bourla, told NBC News' Lester Holt that it's conducting “very large studies right now” in children under 12. He said those focused on kids 5 to 11 would be completed in September and that the company could then submit the data to the FDA. Given how efficiently the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reviewed previous data, this means an authorization for this group could be available by Thanksgiving, NBC News medical contributor Dr. Kavita Patel said on TODAY Tuesday. Pfizer's data on toddlers to age 4 would likely come soon after, NBC News has reported.
Moderna's timeline for kids is likely late fall or early winter. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson plans to study its COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents aged 12-17 in the fall. The company also plans to test the vaccine in younger children, pregnant women and their infants, and then immunocompromised people.
Fauci also weighed in on whether he thinks the FDA approval will have a large impact on vaccination rates, pointing to a few possible outcomes.
"There's a survey that shows that about 30% of the people who have not gotten vaccinated and had been reluctant to get vaccinated have said that once they get what they consider the stamp of approval ... they would very seriously consider getting vaccinated," he said. "The second element is ... that there will now be much more enthusiasm in mandating vaccines, be they in corporations and places of employment, universities, colleges, the military."
He added that the approval also allows Pfizer to advertise the vaccine, which could also boost uptake.
If a majority of the 80 to 90 million who have yet to be vaccinated decide to get the shot, Fauci said we could be looking at the "light at the end of the tunnel where we reach a point where there's enough of a veil of protection over the community that you see a dramatic diminution, not only in cases but in hospitalizations and ultimately, of course, in deaths."
Whether we hit this point in the fall, winter or spring will "depend on us," he added. "Our fate is in our own hands. ... If we do it right and get through the winter, as we get to the spring of 2022, we'll be there. I hope so. It's up to us."