Children ages 5 to 11 may soon be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s a look at the plans

Federal health regulators said late Friday that kid-size doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine appear highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections in elementary school children and caused no unexpected safety issues, as the U.S. weighs beginning vaccinations in youngsters. The Food and Drug Administration posted its analysis of Pfizer's data ahead of a public meeting next week to debate whether the shots are ready for the nation's roughly 28 million children ages 5 to 11. The agency will ask a panel of outside vaccine experts to vote on that question.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some 28 million children ages 5 to 11 in the United States may soon be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and plans are underway to help them get it.

The Food and Drug Administration’s independent vaccine advisory board will meet Tuesday to discuss whether Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine should be authorized for younger children. Then, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention independent vaccine advisory committee will meet Nov. 2 or 3 and will vote on whether to recommend it. Finally, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will decide whether to accept or modify that committee’s recommendation. If she approves, children ages 5 to 11 could start getting the shot almost immediately.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville and chief of infectious diseases at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, says clinical trials show the vaccine is safe and effective for children in that age group. He says they will be getting a smaller dose, half of the adult dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and likely be given at their pediatrician’s office

“Pediatricians have been the backbone of childhood immunizations in this country, and this vaccine is no different from that,” said Rathore. “The plan issued by the White House recognizes that the rollout of the COVID vaccine for young children requires initial efforts to educate and support families. We must also provide vaccines in settings where families and children feel most comfortable and are accustomed to accessing care for the children.”

Rathore added: “We look forward to working with the administration to ensure that as many pediatricians as possible can administer the vaccine without barriers and we will collaborate with our local first-aid chapter that every state prioritizes pediatricians front and center in their vaccine distribution plans.”

One looming questions is will parents get their children vaccinated? Vaccine hesitancy remains a big issue.

“I’m hearing lots of positive things from the parents. You know, parents trust pediatricians to care for their children, and they come to us with questions and concerns about how to keep their children healthy and safe. We expect that they will turn to us during this next phase for reassurance and guidance about the COVID-19 vaccine,” Rathore said.

“We are ready to do what we have always done, counsel our families and protect our patients,” Rathore assured. “We will talk to every parent who has any concern and will make sure that they understand how important the vaccine is and how safe and effective the vaccine is.”

Rathore continued: “And as they have given other vaccines to their children, they will also accept this vaccine.”

Rathore expects the vaccine to be approved for children ages 5 to 11. He said it will be an effective tool in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

“This is a key moment in our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rathore emphasized. “So far, not all children have had access to the vaccine. But we are hopeful that very soon the school-aged children will benefit from this life-saving protection of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

If it wins final approval, the vaccine is expected to be available sometime in November.

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