The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expanded its eligibility for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12 years old.
The FDA action will be followed by the advisory committee's meeting, currently set for Wednesday. A draft agenda posted online says a vote would happen early Wednesday afternoon. If the committee gives the OK, the vaccines can then be distributed.
Dr. James McCarthy with Memorial Hermann Hospital expects vaccines to be available to young teens as early as this week.
“I have a daughter who falls in this age group. I am thrilled she gets to join the rest of our family and be vaccinated,” said Dr. McCarthy, chief physician executive with Memorial Herman Health System.
Several Houston area providers are letting parents pre-register their kids ahead of the official decision. They’ll be notified when their age group is eligible.
Click here to register your child for Memorial Hermann's vaccine waitlist.
Harris County Public Health says teens will need parental consent to get a shot at mega sites or at schools.
The Department of State Health Services is also asking pediatricians to enroll and administer shots in their offices.
“We think this is the way to get our society back to normal. I think it’s super exciting we can get these adolescents now able to be vaccinated so summer camps can be done more safely, travel can be done more safely, and we minimize the likelihood of another wave. The more people we get vaccinated, the better off we’re going to be,” said Dr. McCarthy.
While some families are eager to get their children vaccinated, others aren’t so sure.
Dr. Victoria Regan, a pediatrician with Children’s Memorial Hermann, discussed some of parents' biggest fears.
Many feel children don’t need the vaccine since most have mild or no symptoms if they get the virus.
“We still have children that unfortunately do get severely sick, wind up in the hospital, and even die. The numbers are lower than the adult population, but it still can happen. With this vaccine, especially showing 100% efficacy so far, wouldn’t you want your child to be vaccinated if there’s a way we can prevent one death?” she said.
Other parents worry about long-term side effects. Many see the COVID-19 vaccine as experimental. However, Dr. Regan says Pfizer’s vaccine has been well-studied at this point, and the risk of side effects is low.
“There’s a much higher risk of your kid getting COVID – even if they have it asymptomatic right now – of having complications called myocarditis, which is inflammation around the heart which we’ve found in a lot of child athletes. That can cause problems 6 to 12 months after this mild infection, as well as potential for heart failure as they become an adult. Versus the vaccine, so far everything looks wonderful with it. It really seems very safe and effective,” she said.