Pfizer vaccine approved for children ages 5-11, but some remain skeptical

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Spencer Cohen, Staff Writer

After a year and a half of research, trials, and waiting, children between ages five and eleven years are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.  The vaccine’s approval for young kids is a crucial next step in containing the spread of the virus and ultimately ending the pandemic, which has taken millions of lives across the world.  However, unlike other vaccines, Pfizer’s new vaccine for children does not determine dosage by size or weight, but rather by age.  The CDC and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) both currently urge children that were previously diagnosed with COVID-19 to get vaccinated, yet many parents still seem to be on edge about the new vaccine.  

“I think these concerns are valid.  These vaccines have not been out for a long time for this particular age group, and there is a possibility they can cause long-term side effects for young kids.   However, I think that parents should consider giving their kids the vaccine while also taking into account the possible downsides of receiving it,” said freshman Nathan Jackman.

The Pfizer vaccine has undergone many tests, and, according to Pfizer clinical trials on children five to eleven presented to the FDA, it is approximately 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms.  The clinical trials also found that the most common reactions children experienced after injection were a headache and weariness.  These, however, were very mild symptoms and posed no real danger to the health of children.  Furthermore, kids only receive a third of the dosage that teenagers and adults receive, meaning that the side effects for children are significantly less severe than the side effects often found after injection of the standard vaccine for ages 12 and up. 

Due to the lack of side effects from the children’s vaccine, some parents’ worries may have been eased, but some are still unsure.  It is also worth noting that, as per a CDC report, COVID-19 is currently in the top ten causes of death for children ages 5-11, and mental health has been a big issue.  The trauma of losing a family member from COVID-19 can also take a toll on a young child. 

“The pandemic took away a lot of contact with friends which is what, in many cases, keeps a child stable.  With that in mind, you lose motivation in everything you do, and on top of that, losing a family member is tough enough, but it’s that much more devastating when you are already in a mental health crisis,” said freshman Kiara Adams.

As for children younger than five years old, clinical trials are still being done.  Scientists have confirmed that the vaccine dosage for kids younger than five will be even smaller than the dosage given to children ages five to eleven.  Currently, Pfizer is the only company distributing a vaccine to young kids, and research is still being done to see whether the vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will be suitable for distribution.  Right now, the estimated release of Moderna’s vaccine to younger children has been delayed to January.

Pfizer’s clinical trials were primarily successful, and contained only a few breakthrough cases; only three out of around 3,000 children got COVID-19, despite being administered the vaccine.  The breakthrough cases were expected, however, as no vaccine is completely efficient. 

Like teens and adults, young children ages five to eleven will also receive two doses of the vaccine.  Children can receive the vaccine from their pediatrician, retail pharmacies, health clinics, and hospitals.  Additionally, unlike when the first sets of vaccines were released for high-risk adults, all children ages five to eleven will be eligible for the vaccine.  In fact, the White House has already rolled out shipments of the vaccine.  

Children who have underlying health issues are also recommended to take the vaccine, and doctors recommend those who are immunocompromised to receive the vaccine as soon as possible.  This includes children who suffer from Cystic Fibrosis, allergies, asthma, heart disease, and more.