JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Pfizer asks the FDA to approve its COVID-19 vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old, local doctors believe it will be safe and effective.
If it gets the green light, Pfizer’s lower-dose version will be the first coronavirus vaccine for younger children. The shot is currently approved for anyone 16 and older and has emergency use authorization for kids as young as 12.
A panel of experts with the Food and Drug Administration will look at the risks and the benefits on Oct. 26.
“It’s important because this is the group of kids that are in school right now, there are a lot of counties throughout Florida and the country that don’t have mask mandates. Now the group that (is) at increased risk of not only getting an infected now but spreading it to other people,” said Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation.
Joshi said there doesn’t seem to be a serious risk with kids getting the shot but experts will make sure it’s safe before giving any authorization.
“These are vaccines that have been studied extensively at this point,” he pointed out. “Keep in mind over 178 million people in this country have been vaccinated and we’re not seeing any significant upticks in side effects.”
It comes as local hospital leaders say pushing the vaccine is the best defense against serious illness. They contend as more people are getting vaccinated, they’re seeing a decrease in hospitalizations and deaths.
“The truth is vaccinations will help solve this COVID issue so we’ve got to make sure we get everyone vaccinated,” said Russell Armistead, the CEO of UF Health Jacksonville.
On a call with community leaders Thursday,, Armistead said the hospital system has 27 COVID-19 currently patients admitted -- the lowest in three months. Early last month, at the height of the delta variant, they were treating 274 patients with coronavirus.
“The good news is we are having fewer deaths and the city positivity ready is around 7%, needs to be less than five for us to continue to feel better,” he added.
On the same briefing, David Caro, an emergency medicine doctor at UF Health Jacksonville, said trick-or-treating this Halloween seems like a safe bet as long as parents are careful and use common sense.
Everyone pointed out the pandemic is not over and it’s not a time for people to let their guard down.