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Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine safe for children ages 5 to 11

FILE (Photo by Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Pfizer announced Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11, adding that they will soon seek emergency use authorization for this age group.

A top Utah pediatrician said vaccinating younger children is critical to ending the pandemic.

“I think it’s really important that we have a vaccine for kids in this age group because in the current era of Delta and limited masking in the schools, about 25% of cases in Utah are among school-aged children,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Utah Health and director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

The Pfizer vaccine has already been approved for everyone 12 and older.

Pavia said getting younger children vaccinated is crucial, especially after cases spiked among that age group over the summer.

“If your child is attending school in Utah, they’re at pretty high risk of getting COVID,” he said.

With children back in school, mostly unmasked in Utah, and the Delta variant causing a rise in pediatric infections, many parents are anxious to get their younger children vaccinated.

“If my kids were 5 to 11, they would be in line to get vaccinated the first day it was available if I had not already enrolled them in the clinical trials,” said Pavia.

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

He said the risk from COVID-19 is large, and he views the risk from the vaccine as much smaller.

“To date, these vaccines have proved to be about as safe as any other vaccine we use,” he said.

Primary Children’s Hospital continues to see new cases of COVID-19 among children.

“Over the weekend, we had between eight and 10 children in the hospital, which is pretty much where we’ve been running,” said Pavia.

It’s not the greatest number of children in the hospital, but he said it’s more children with COVID-19 than at any time in the pandemic — 1/4 of all new cases.

“Our hospitals are seeing many, many kids who are quite sick with COVID,” he said. “But, more importantly, a large number of kids are staying home with COVID — sometimes experiencing long COVID — having prolonged fatigue, and missing out on many of the normal activities of school and childhood.”

After the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, children in the study developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults.

“That’s really good news because young adults are kind of a gold standard for good response to vaccines,” said Pavia.

For elementary school-aged children, Pfizer tested a lower dose — one-third the amount given to adults.

The dosage for children also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — like sore arms, fever or achiness — than teens experienced.

“Right now, we have a huge surge going on in Utah, and infection rates are at levels that we haven’t seen since last January. If we get those down, then all settings become relatively safer than they are now,” said Pavia.

Pfizer plans to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for 5 to 11 year olds by the end of September.

Based on the approval of the vaccine for other age groups, Pavia thinks the vaccine could be available for younger children around Halloween or early November.
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