PITTSBURGH (AP/KDKA) — Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11. The vaccine maker said Monday it plans to seek authorization for this age group soon in the U.S., Britain and Europe — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older, but many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.
Pfizer studied a lower dose of its two-dose vaccine in more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids. The kids developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults.
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Doctors say there are still several steps that need to take place before the vaccine is available to kids.
Heather Smith of Altoona said she wants her 5-year-old grandson vaccinated once the shot is available but said her daughter might be standing in the way of that.
“She’s having issues with the vaccine. Worried about future side effects of them but I try to tell her to get it,” said Smith.
Smith’s biggest concern right now is COVID cases spiking.
“We are from Blair County, the Altoona area, and it’s spiking there, so absolutely. I worry about them going to school,” said Smith.
Being back in school this year is a top concern for health experts as the delta variant continues to spread.
“This is going to expand the number of children that can be protected against COVID-19,” said Social Media Medical Advisor at Allegheny Health Network Dr. Edward Ketyer.
However, before kids 5 to 11 can roll up their sleeves, Dr. Ketyer said Pfizer’s shot for young children still has several steps to go through before it’s approved.
“The FDA, CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics need to look at this data and decide for themselves how and when this vaccine should be given to kids between the ages of 5 and 11,” said Dr. Ketyer.
Ketyer said we will likely see the shot available through emergency use authorization before it’s approved by the FDA, but he emphasizes that shots under emergency use authorization are safe.
“Emergency use authorization is about as good as we are gonna get. I think it’s good enough,” said Dr. Ketyer. “Parents don’t want their children to be hospitalized and the rate of hospitalizations in children have gone up significantly.”
Pfizer used a lower dose vaccine for kids ages 5-11, but doctors say they’re still noticing a strong immune response against COVID-19.
“This is really good news I think as far as the manufacturing of the vaccine. As far as the supply and the potential side effects, which don’t seem to be quite as severe in Pfizer’s study as in older children and adults where you can get a fever, body aches, soreness at the site of the injection that lasts about a day or so,” said Dr. Ketyer.
As for Heather Smith, she said she understands why her daughter is hesitant, but she said she’ll keep pushing the shot as long as she can.
Dt. Ketyer said we could see the COVID-19 vaccine available for our little ones as early as Halloween, but he’s thinking it’s more likely to be available by Thanksgiving.
According to the state, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people made up 97% of deaths in 2021, 95% of hospitalizations and 94% of cases.
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