RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A COVID-19 vaccine for young children is one step closer to becoming a reality. On Monday morning, Pfizer announced that its COVID vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11 years old.
Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is only available for people 12 years old and up, but things could quickly change for the young children.
School-age children have become a vulnerable population when it comes to contracting COVID-19. Childhood cases are on the rise nationwide as students head back to the classroom.
Melissa Viray, Deputy Director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, told 8News the news from Pfizer is exciting and vaccinating that age group is critical in the fight against the pandemic.
“A chunk of our cases come from those who are unvaccinated and right now that is all of our under 12-year-olds,” Viray said. “We don’t want to see hospitalization and death in small children. It’s one more thing that will prevent transmission. We’re depending on vaccination as the way out of this pandemic.”
Much like the current vaccine, children ages 5 to 11 would get two shots, but the difference is the doses are much lower. Pfizer says more than 2,000 young children participated in clinical trials and produced strong “robust” antibody responses against the virus.
Chris Crowley plans to get his 6-year-old vaccinated if and when it’s approved.
“We’re on board,” Crowley told 8News. “It’ll be one of many she’s had that will keep her safe.”
Crowely, a proud dad to Richmond Public Schools first grader shared that he’ll breathe a little easier sending his daughter to school if the vaccine becomes available for the little ones.
“It’ll make us feel a little better,” Crowley said. “If someone in her class or school ends up testing positive, God forbid but it’s bound to happen, she’s that much safer.”
Crowley added that he’s not concerned about the vaccine and feels that it’s safe. He also shared that his daughter, Erica, wants to visit extended family and see a Broadway show, which requires vaccination.
Crowley adding that she is scared of needles, but as a family they’ve talked about it with her and when the time comes, they’ll be ready.
“I’m excited,” Crowley said. “We’re looking forward to having that option to help protect our daughter and help her protect others. It’s part of what we’ve been preaching to her with masks and hand washing. It’s not just about keeping her safe it’s about keeping everyone around her safe and this does both of that.”
The highly anticipated announcement from the pharmaceutical giant is being met with mixed reaction from parents across the country; some in favor and some not. However, Pfizer officials are moving full steam ahead.
“We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population, subject to regulatory authorization, especially as we track the spread of the delta variant and the substantial threat it poses to children,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
Viray, with RHHD, has a message for parents who may be hesitant .
“I know some parents are frustrated, but it does take time,” Viray said. “I do think that families who are hesitant should be reassured by the fact that it has taken a bit longer. They wanted to watch and they wanted to look at longer monitoring data to make sure they were capturing any potential risks.”
Viray also shared that health departments, including the Virginia Department of Health, have been anticipating vaccines for young children and officials have already been working on distribution plans. Viray goes on to say plans are still fluid, but some would mirror what we see now like vaccination events, partnerships with schools and pharmacies, and more.
Pfizer will now submit its findings to the FDA and file for Emergency Use Authorization. The corporation is also in the middle of two other clinical trials for children. The vaccine is being tested on children ages two to five and two to six months old. The results should be available later this year.