FDA authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 5-11
Summit County health organizations preparing for vaccine rollout pending CDC approval
Since the beginning of the year, COVID-19 vaccines have slowly been made available to various segments of the population. Front line health care workers and older populations had first dibs, then those with health conditions and those working in essential positions were up next before the rest of the population ages 18 and older could get in line.
In May, youths 12 and older were eligible for the vaccine. Since then, younger children have been waiting, masked up, for their turn. On Friday, Oct. 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took one step forward in making that happen.
According to the organization’s news release, the FDA authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11. Like the adult version of the Pfizer vaccine, it’ll come in two parts and be spaced three weeks apart but in a lower dosage. The release notes that it’s one-third of the adult dose.
The release states that this new vaccine is 90.7% effective in preventing the virus in children ages 5-11. To complete the study and test its safety, it was administered to about 3,100 children, and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study.
The next step is waiting for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to give the final approval before health facilities can begin to administer the doses, which is likely to happen next week.
Though the announcement was news to the general public, many local organizations had already begun to plan for administering the vaccine to a newly eligible population. Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland wrote in an email that the county has already placed its order for the pediatric vaccine and is expecting its shipment to arrive by Thursday, Nov. 4.
Wineland said the county has already been planning clinics. The first will likely be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at Summit Middle School, pending the CDC’s approval. Other clinics are in the works, too.
“We are also working with school-based health (centers) to run additional clinics for this age group,” Wineland wrote. “This age group will also be able to attend any of our already-scheduled clinics after final approval from CDC.”
Summit School District spokesperson Andrea Ridder said the district will continue to partner with Summit County Public Health to help with the vaccine rollout.
“Our goal is just to keep kids safe, healthy and in school, and if this is going to help that, then we are here to partner with the FDA, the CDC, our local public health just to support that,” Ridder said.
Elizabeth Edgar, physical health coordinator for the district, said there are about 1,800 students who fall into the 5-11 age range. Edgar said the district plans to send out communication once it knows more.
“Summit School District is very excited that the vaccine for 5- (to) 11-year-olds is going to be available,” Edgar wrote in an email. “We, too, have been waiting for this day to arrive.”
Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos of the Ebert Family Clinic in Frisco said she’s put in an order for 50 doses of the vaccine. Ebert-Santos noted that even though children are less likely to get severely ill from the virus, it’s still crucial they get vaccinated because they can be carriers for the disease.
“This vaccine is one of the safest vaccines that has ever been developed,” Ebert-Santos said. “We don’t want our kids to have to miss school after losing so much school last year. We know it’s still spreading in the community. And we know that, yes, it’s rare for children to get seriously ill or end up in the hospital but … it’s still a risk. It’s even more of a risk that the children will bring it home to other family members who will be affected.”
Ebert-Santos noted that it’s still unclear how long the vaccines are effective in adults and that getting children vaccinated is one more way to keep the entire population safe from serious effects of the virus.
Ebert-Santos noted that the vaccine is safe because it has used data from the adult Pfizer vaccine that has already been rolled out. Concerns that the vaccine could affect children differently are not factually based, she said.
“This worry that there’s something different about kids, that this vaccine could cause some unanticipated complications later on, that’s (the) No. 1 (concern),” she said. “That’s not characteristic of any other vaccine.”
The only side effects that are likely to occur from this vaccine are similar to the side effects that come with the adult version: tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. Ebert-Santos emphasized that any side effects that are likely to occur will happen within the first 30 days.
In addition to the Ebert Family Clinic administering the doses, the Summit Community Care Clinic will be offering the vaccine to its patients in this age group by appointment.
In anticipation of the CDC giving its final approval, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment suggested parents begin having conversations with their kids about getting the shots.
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