CDC Committee Recommends Pfizer’s COVID Vaccine for Children 5-11

Editor’s note: This story is breaking, and will be updated with local information and more details as we get them.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee Tuesday unanimously recommended the COVID-19 vaccine created by Pfizer and BioNTech for children ages 5-11.

Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their pediatric two-dose COVID-19 vaccine regimen for children ages 5-11 had been demonstrated to be safe in clinical trials and submitted a request with the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization.

The smaller dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, administered in two doses 21-days apart, produced a safe and “robust” immune response in children ages 5-11 in a clinical trial, the companies said in September.

The dose will be given with smaller needles and stored in smaller vials to help prevent it from being confused with the adult dose.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced had already started packing and shipping the vaccine and anticipated the first shots going in arms by the middle of the week.

“We are not waiting on the operations and logistics,” said coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said in a briefing Monday. He said there is plenty of supply of the Pfizer vaccine – enough to handle the 28 million children in the U.S. in that age range.

The FDA already gave emergency use authorization for the regimen on Friday. Now that the CDC committee has weighed in, agency director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was clear to give the order Tuesday night to begin administering the shots.

We asked our most junior intern, Chapel Hill Preparatory fifth-grader (and son of digital editor Bethany Erickson) John Erickson how he felt about that.

“I’m not exactly excited about getting a shot,” he said. “I just got my flu shot and that was a whole ordeal. I don’t like shots, but I like COVID even less.”

“But what do you think it will mean if you can get it?” we asked.

“It means I might not have to wear masks the entire school year,” he said, a little testily if you ask us. “It means I can hug grandma again. It means that all those people who have been wrong and saying that COVID is just like the flu might actually get to be right one day.”

Epidemiologist Dr. Katelin Jetelina, who runs the popular “Your Local Epidemiologist” website said that she understands that some parents will be ready immediately, and others may be a little more hesitant.

For those who are ready now, she recommends enrolling the child in the V-Safe program after they are vaccinated to improve data gathering about how children continue to react to the vaccine. You can do that here.

For those who want to wait and see, or are adamant they won’t be getting their child vaccinated for COVID-19, Jetelina encourages talking to the medical professionals you’re most comfortable with — your child’s pediatrician.

“First and foremost, please have a conversation with your child’s pediatrician,” she wrote. “They are there to listen and know the health and medical history of your child best.”

Jetelina said she joined an American Academy of Pediatrics panel recently for a question-and-answer session addressing parental concerns that can be viewed here, and she also compiled the top eight parental concerns and addressed them here.

A federal website provides an index of providers with appointments, some as early as this weekend.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said it had instructed the CDC to ship the vaccine to more than 900 providers in 155 Texas counties over the next week, delivering more than one million pediatric doses to vaccine providers and almost 350,000 to pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program.

More than 500,000 doses have already been delivered to the state.

“Vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11 helps to protect all Texans from COVID-19,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “Twenty-two Texas children between the ages of 5 and 11 have died from complications of COVID-19 and 118 have been diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. The pediatric vaccine will further help reduce the spread of disease and prevent the rare but serious complications of COVID-19 in this age group.”

Dallas County administered its first shots Wednesday morning, with a handful of children on hand for a press conference before and during the vaccination process.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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