We cannot wait any longer
Dear Rep. Joe Neguse,
I write to convey my profound concerns about the federal government’s unconscionable administrative delays in approving a COVID-19 vaccine for children under five. Like you, I am the father of a three-year-old. While vaccines have been approved for adults since December 2020 and for children above the age of five since October 2021, children like ours continue to move through the world without this protection. Despite the urgent need to make vaccines available to the entire population, the Biden Administration has instead dragged their feet on approving applications for emergency use authorization (EUA) for safe and effective vaccines for children.
While children under five thankfully have one of the lowest mortality risks of any group, 2.3 million of them have been infected and at least 413 have died. As the virus continues to mutate into new variants, public health efforts for controlling infection are prematurely rolled back, and evidence accumulates about the debilitating consequences of “long COVID”, the lack of any vaccine protection for children under five grows ever more stark for their parents, guardians, and caretakers. Nearly nine months since the vaccine received emergency approval for children over five, why is the same protection not available to children under five?
On April 28, 2022, Moderna filed an application for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine in children older than six months after clinical trials demonstrated similar efficacy against contemporary variants like Omicron as observed in adults. The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VBPAC) replied on April 29, 2022 that it will not meet until June 8, 2022 at the earliest to discuss EUAs for vaccines for these younger populations: a 41-day turnaround, at best. In contrast, the emergency use application for the Moderna vaccine for adults was submitted on November 30, 2020 and received FDA approval on December 18, 2020: an 18-day turnaround.
Perhaps President Biden and the Democratic Party that ran in 2020 on a platform of competence and decency see no political liability in taking more than twice as long as the previous administration to approve a life-saving vaccine for children, but the voting parents of the 37,537 children under the age of five in Colorado’s Second Congressional District and the 19.6 million children under five across the United States are absolutely taking note of this wanton complacency. Our ability to secure childcare, to visit high-risk relatives, to return to work, and to re-engage in public life cannot “return to normal” until our children have protection. We cannot continue to put our lives on hold while the Biden Administration’s bureaucracy sits on paperwork for weeks longer than it took to approve previous applications.
A safe and effective vaccine for children under five exists right now. As one of a handful of the representatives in our gerontocracy with children under the age of five, I ask you to use your power in front of and behind the scenes to convene the FDA’s VBPAC immediately to act on Moderna’s EUA application. Parents and children under five cannot wait any longer.
Brian Keegan, Ph.D.