Local medical providers are preparing to potentially offer Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to young kids after an FDA advisory panel recommended it for emergency use authorization for those ages 5 to 11.
The recommendation was announced Tuesday and still awaits confirmation from the FDA and CDC. If approved, the dose used for children ages 5 to 11 would be one-third the amount used for adults and older kids.
“I have to say that it is like the biggest birthday present that I’ve had probably since the pandemic started," said Dr. Sarah Campbell, an Ascension Wisconsin pediatrician in Appleton and president of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "My daughters are going to be the first in line and one will be doing her happy dance because she's been waiting for this day."
Campbell is no stranger to vaccinating kids. She said they administer vaccines to children on a daily basis. Given the research on vaccinating young kids against COVID-19, Campbell said the FDA panel's recommendation is a step in the right direction.
"We’ve vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, whooping cough. So vaccinating kids is not new," Campbell said. "We are vaccinating with a new vaccine to them, but we have almost two years of data on this vaccine and millions, upon millions, and millions of people who’ve been vaccinated. So for me as a parent that gives me confidence that we’ve done all the right steps.”
Meanwhile, at Bellin Health, Dr. Robert Mead, a Bellin Health family physician and lead physician for the system's COVID-19 incident command, said they hope to offer the vaccine to kids ages 5 and up at community sites, as well as physician and pediatric offices, once there is official approval.
"We're able to get closer to herd immunity by doing that. We're also able to stop the spread better," Mead said. "Kids are a good reservoir for that. They probably have a lot of asymptomatic infections. They have mild infections. Parents may think there's just a cold when it could be COVID, and then not recognize it and they spread it to adults."
The risk of developing myocarditis following Pfizer's shot is low and has been rarely reported in young males, according to the CDC. Mead said the chance of getting myocarditis after being infected with COVID-19 is much higher than from the vaccine.
“We know the myocarditis in the vaccine is self-limited. It does not cause permanent heart damage. It resolves on its own if you take anti-inflammatories for it," Mead said. "That may not be the case if you get myocarditis from COVID-19.”
If the FDA signs off, it could expand vaccine eligibility to 28 million kids nationwide. Dr. Ashok Rai, president & CEO of Prevea Health, said given the large number of children that would need to be vaccinated, the holidays may not be completely back to normal.
"It’s five weeks to really get fully vaccinated, because there are two shots, three weeks apart and two weeks after for your body to really have that good response," Rai said. "To really get to that peak it's going to take months to get a lot of kids through there, just given how many children there are between 5 and 11 and that five-week time period."
Despite that timeline, Rai said the vaccine will still be extremely beneficial for families during the holidays and beyond. He said it's all about protecting kids and creating a higher level of immunity to end the pandemic.
"Every shot given is an opportunity for more immunity in our community, so we don't also want to understate the effect that this is going to have on our holidays. It'll have a positive effect," Rai said.
Prevea Health could have vaccines available for children ages 5 and up as early as the second week of November.