FORT WORTH, Texas — The U.S. is getting closer to making more children eligible for the COVID vaccine.
This week, Pfizer announced its COVID vaccine is safe and effective for children between the ages of 5 to 11. Currently, Pfizer’s vaccine is only authorized for people 12 and older.
Before vaccinations for the 5 to 11 age group can begin, two key meetings will take place.
First, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to evaluate Pfizer’s trial data on Oct. 26. If the FDA authorizes emergency use of the kid-size doses, the final decision will head to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC is set to have meet on the matter in early November, and health officials anticipate a rollout of the vaccine for kids 5 to 11 sometime in November.
Dr. Seth Kaplan with the Texas Pediatric Society said health leaders in the state are gearing up for the rollout.
“We’re hoping it won’t be very long,” said Kaplan. “If they get approval, then we’ll be ready to go ahead with the rollout.”
Expanding the vaccine to roughly 28 million more children in the U.S. is yet another milestone in the fight against the virus.
Here are a few questions answered by Dr. Kaplan:
Question: Where can children get the COVID vaccine?
Dr. Kaplan: “Once it becomes available, many pediatrician offices will have it. It should also become available in pharmacies who do have the ability to vaccinate children.”
When will children 5 to 11 be eligible for the COVID vaccine?
Dr. Kaplan: “Mid-November would be very realistic. Once the CDC gives approval, then we’ll be ready to go ahead with the rollout, although there will still be a little bit of time needed to actually get doses to offices and pharmacies where they will be vaccinated. If we hear news sooner that Pfizer is starting to ship this reformulated version, that may make the process quicker, but all those details are sort of still being figured out as far as we know.”
Why should children get vaccinated against COVID?
Dr. Kaplan: “There have been a lot of questions by many about why we should vaccinate kids 5 to 11 when most of them, if they get COVID, do reasonably well with it. There are a number of reasons it is important to vaccinate this age group:
- There is a percentage of children after COVID who have serious illness and go on to develop long COVID symptoms.
- Unfortunately, right now, children are making up about 25% of all new infections. They bring it home to parents and potentially grandparents and other family members who are at risk of getting sick.
- As long as we continue to have a group of unvaccinated individuals, that allows the virus to continue to change and develop new variants. Every time a new variant comes out, we worry that it may evade the vaccine or cause more serious illness in different age groups than it does now.”
For Shannon Austin, a parent in Fort Worth, getting her young children vaccinated is critical. Her husband has a pre-existing condition.
“I’m definitely anxious to get my kids vaccinated,” Austin said. “We didn’t get COVID the entire time my kids were out of school last year. Then, they went back to school this year and within a month, my husband got COVID from my two kids that were not vaccinated, and it’s wreaked havoc on his body.”
When it’s time, the mom of three said she’ll be ready to get her young children vaccinated.
“I’m definitely ready to move on,” said Austin.