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Vaccine for young children fills gap in remaining segment of population

Pfizer Vaccine Children
Posted at 4:47 PM, Nov 12, 2021

MADISON (NBC 26) — As a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old became available last week, it opened the possibility of vaccinating the last large remaining segment of the population.

There are about 28 million children in this age group in the United States, which makes up about 8.5% of the population.

During a six-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children increased fivefold, a CDC report last week showed.

The emergency use authorization of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine for this age group does more than protect them from illness, according to Dr. Joseph McBride, UW Health adult and pediatric infectious disease physician.

"What I'm most excited about for our children is giving them the protection that allows them to stay in the building in a school at a greater rate than they have previously," McBride said. "That is really the most important thing for our children is keeping them educated, safe, and healthy and that’s why I'm really excited for it."

Parents should be informed about all the risks of any procedure or drug, and the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has proven safe and effective with minimal side effects, McBride said.

Most side effects in the clinical trial data presented to the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were mild, like sore arm, fatigue and headache. Post-vaccination myocarditis, or inflammation of the muscles in the heart, is rarely reported in children older than 12 and young adults. The dose that 5 to 11-year-olds receive is a smaller dose than adolescents and adults receive and may cut down the odds of this already rare side effect, McBride said.

"When you look at some of the side effect profiles that have been reported from the same shots that kids get and the ones adults get, the kids actually have more mild symptoms that are reported," he said. "A big part of that may be the kid's ability and resilience to tolerate shots and go on with their lives."

In the initial trials testing the Pfizer vaccine in 5 to 11-year-olds there were no reports of myocarditis, though the sample size may not have been large enough to detect a case because the possibility of this side effect is so rare, McBride said.

McBride’s two sons, ages 5 and 7, received the COVID-19 vaccine Monday and are doing well, he said.

"So, the vaccine for children has really been only available for a few days now and we are still seeing an uptick in our cases so far statewide, so i think it’s too early to see a noticeable impact on the case rate with the children's vaccine," McBride said.

Appointments are available at vaccines.gov.