ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local health experts are weighing in on Pfizer Pharmaceutical announcing that it’s COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11.
This comes after Pfizer has spent several months studying the vaccine in more than 2,200 kids across the United States.
“We’re in a hurry here because the kids are in school, more children are catching the coronavirus, it’s up almost 300%, the pediatric hospitals are filling to capacity,” said Dr. Michael Pichichero, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Rochester Regional Health.
The vaccine given to children during Pfizer’s study is similar to the vaccine given to those over the age of 12. However, it’s a third of the dose.
“This is the same vaccine that has already been given to over 400 million adults, it’s a lower dose, but it’s the same vaccine. Children are not little adults, we had to lower the dose in order for it to be appropriate for the average weight of a 5-11 year old, otherwise this is the same vaccine,” Dr. Pichichero said.
The data showed after the 2nd dose, children had developed enough antibody levels to fight the coronavirus and it’s been just as strong as in teenagers and adults.
“As expected, children have terrific immune systems. They ended up producing very high levels of immunity,” Dr. Pichichero said.
While data has shown COVID cases among kids tend to be mild, close to 460 kids in the U.S. have died from the virus and doctors say it’s not worth the risk.
“It is true that kids don’t become ill as often when they catch the coronavirus… but still some children do become ill and some become very, very ill and some children die. So for your child, you want to consider this as a measure to prevent your child from becoming ill or potentially very ill,” Dr. Pichichero said.
Hospitals across the country are filling up with children, either fighting COVID or other respiratory illnesses.
“We are seeing kids hospitalized with COVID. Its very good we’re not seeing the numbers we see in adults, but speaking as a parent even 1 is too many,” said Dr. Jennifer Nayak, the Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Rochester Medical Center.
With kids back in the classroom, doctors say this vaccine is even more important.
“As we have begun our school year, we see children attending in person, but already 1 by 1, we are having kids drop out as they either catch the virus or are exposed to the virus. As we achieve vaccination in the 5 to 11 group, later this winter, that will mean more kids are attending school and more parents are able to go to work, and most importantly more kids are not becoming seriously ill,” Dr. Pichichero said.
Along with doctors, parents are excited about Pfizer’s announcement too.
Tiffany Porter is a mother of three. Her two older sons have been vaccinated, but her youngest is 9-years-old and can’t get the shot yet.
“As a mom, knowing that this variant, this delta variant, is making kids sicker and they’re being diagnosed more with severe symptoms, is very scary,” said Tiffany Porter, a Fairport mother of three.
Porter says she plans to get her 9-year-old vaccinated once the vaccine is approved. She said it’s been difficult going certain places when some of her family is vaccinated and her youngest can’t be.
“People are dying from not getting the vaccine from what I see, and that’s my opinion. So, as a mom, and I’m supposed to protect my kids, I want them all vaccinated,” she said. “The vaccine is a must, because it affects where I can take him and where I cannot.”
Porter said she understands parents have mixed feelings on the vaccine, but she encourages other parents to do their own reliable research.
“It’s important that people actually look at the statistics and look at the statistics in our hospital, see who’s in there, and who’s unvaccinated, and who has COVID and the numbers compared to the people who are vaccinated? I think that that right there should tell you if the vaccination works or not,” Porter said.
Pfizer will be submitting its study to the FDA soon. The agency will then review the data and vote on emergency use authorization for the vaccine. Dr. Pichichero said this could happen by the end of October.
“So far the safety data looks very promising, we’re still waiting on FDA review,” Dr. Nayak said. “FDA has been doing due diligence and only recommend the vaccine if the data is substantiated, but right now I’m feeling good that we have a vaccine that is effective and safe.”
As for side effects amongst children, experts say they have been consistent with effects others have gotten after their vaccine doses.
“This is a vaccine that does cause more reactions than some of your standard pediatric vaccines. Just as we have seen in adults, they are more likely to get a fever, more likely to get a swollen arm, more likely to get a headache and make you feel lousy for a day or two,” Dr. Pichichero said.
However parents should not be concerned.
“There’s no evidence in any of the studies for adults, teens or younger kids of long lasting negative effects from this vaccination,” Dr. Nayak said.
Vaccine maker, Moderna, is doing its own study of the shots among kids 5 to 11.