(TNS) – Pfizer officials announced Friday that their kid-sized doses are better than 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic illness in children ages 5 to 11 years old.
As soon as health officials greenlight the plan, around 28 million American children in that age group will be able to get immunized against COVID-19. That’s expected to happen as soon as the first week of November, but Wednesday’s White House announcement has parents asking lots of questions.
Here’s what we know so far:
Q. Which vaccines have been authorized for kids?
A. At this point, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is being reviewed for use in those aged 5 to 11. Studies are ongoing for other vaccines in children and adolescents.
Q. When can kids get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine?
A. Likely within weeks, but first the experts have to weigh in.
An FDA advisory panel is meeting on Oct. 26 to review data on how well the vaccine worked in a study of children aged 5 to 11. If the committee recommends that the vaccine be made available for that age group, the agency could authorize its use within days.
Then on Nov. 2, a CDC advisory committee is scheduled to meet before issuing a recommendation that those children be vaccinated.
Q. Why should kids get the vaccine?
A. The vaccines remain highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death. While it is true that most children with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, several hundred have died from the disease in the United States, and thousands have been hospitalized.
What’s more, children who get vaccinated will be far less likely to transmit the virus to older people, who are at greater risk of severe consequences.
Q. Where can kids get the vaccine?
A. The Biden administration is preparing so that children will be able to get the vaccine in more than 25,000 pediatric clinics and other facilities across the country.
And the vaccine also will be available to children at pharmacies, hospitals, and community clinics, just as it has been for adults.
This decentralized approach is very different than the early days of the vaccine rollout, which occurred primarily in facilities equipped to handle larger shipments that were stored in below-freezing temperatures. Regulators now say the product can be stored for up to 10 weeks in standard refrigerators, and will be shipped to pediatricians’ offices in smaller containers.
Q. Can my child get a flu shot at the same time?
A. Just as it is for adults, it’s fine for children to get a flu shot at the same time as they get a COVID-19 vaccine. Due to lockdowns, flu season was very mild in 2020, but experts expect there to be a lot more flu this season, so everyone who can should get that shot too.
Q. Are the shots the same ones adults get?
A. The shots will be administered to children with smaller needles, and in smaller doses.
As with teens and adults, children would get two doses spaced three weeks apart, but each dose would be one-third the size — 10 micrograms in each dose, instead of the two 30-microgram doses given to adults.
That’s because the smaller doses were used in the studies on children, primarily due to their smaller body size, and in the interest of reducing the already-slight risk of any side effects.
Q. Which kids will be eligible?
A. For now, the vaccine would be authorized only for children age 5 and older. Analysis of the vaccine in younger children remains underway.
Q. What are the side effects in kids?
A. The study results Pfizer released Friday state that children 5-11 experienced similar or fewer side effects compared with teens. These include short-lasting sore arms, fever or achiness.
The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second dose, mostly in young men. (It’s important to note, however, that a COVID-19 infection also can produce such inflammation and it’s usually more serious.)
The Pfizer study tracked 2,268 children aged 5-11 who got two shots three weeks apart of either a placebo or a vaccine dose one-third the amount given to teens and adults.
There were 16 COVID-19 cases in youngsters given the placebo, and three in vaccinated children. None of the kids had severe illness, but those who were vaccinated had much milder symptoms than their unvaccinated counterparts.
Q. Will kids need to be vaccinated to go to school?
A. It’s unlikely. Few school districts have implemented COVID-19 vaccine requirements for children aged 12 to 15, for whom the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized in May.
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