KERN COUNTY, Calif. (KERO) — A monumental step taken was taken Tuesday in fighting the pandemic: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.
According to the Associated Press, the director of the CDC gave the go-ahead Tuesday night. The announcement came only hours after a CDC advisory panel unanimously decided Pfizer’s shots should be given to children ages 5 to 11.
Pfizer has already shipped millions of doses to states, doctors' offices, and pharmacies. And pediatricians are getting ready to put shots into little arms. The special kid shots contain just a third of the dose given to teens and adults.
But with the green light doesn’t mean all children will be rolling up their sleeves just yet. There are still some parents who are hesitant.
While children are less likely to have severe symptoms if they contract the virus health officials say they can still spread it to older people that are more likely to end up hospitalized. That’s why officials say children should get the shot.
“From the field of pediatrics we feel that this so far, all the evidence points to it being a safe and effective way of preventing disease in children," said Dr. Kehvon Bekarev, a pediatrician with Kern Medical.
Doctor Hemmal Kothary with Dignity Health added that this is important because children have been spreading the virus.
“These kids were spreaders of the virus. One of the things that we’ve noticed is COVID doesn’t affect the kids or it doesn’t get them as sick as it would older folks, so what these kids were doing is they were spreading it to older folks, and then the older folks would get sick and end up in our hospitals and in our ICUs and then some would pass away.”
Dr. Kothary said while he understands some parents may be hesitant there has been extensive research done on the vaccine.
“Hesitancy is fine, but just know that the science is there protecting these kids.”
Dr. Bekarev added if children younger than 5 years old who are not eligible are with children who are vaccinated everyone should continue to follow safety guidelines.
“Best guidance I would say for the time being is to continue to use all the best practices for wearing masks, hand hygiene disinfection, distancing when able, all of those things.”
Dr. Bekarev said their clinic has already received questions from parents about the vaccine and encourages the community to continue inquiring about the vaccine if needed.
“Any questions about the vaccine, any associated risk, that sort of thing, please do reach out to your own pediatrician. Schedule an appointment. They’ll be happy to answer your questions.”
When the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine last Friday for children millions of doses started shipping out over the weekend.
You may be wondering how the whole vaccine approval process works so 23ABC took an in-depth look and found a breakdown from the CDC.
Before a new vaccine is ever given to people, extensive lab testing is done that can take several years. The Food and Drug Administration will conduct three phases of clinical trials.
Researchers test vaccines with adults first. During Phase 1 trials are done with 20-to-100 healthy volunteers with a focus on vaccine safety and whether or not it works.
For Phase 2 trials are done with several hundred volunteers with a focus on whether the volunteers’ immune systems are responding to the vaccine.
And for the final part - Phase 3 - hundreds or thousands of volunteers participate with a look at how do people who get the vaccine and people who do not get the vaccine compare.
The FDA licenses a vaccine only if it’s safe and effective and the benefits outweigh the risks. With COVID-19 the vaccine process was sped up due to emergency use authorization.
Meanwhile, private companies with more than 100 workers could soon start requiring workers to get their COVID vaccinations.
The Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the rule that was designed by the Labor Department. The rule is part of an effort by the Biden Administration to increase vaccinations among Americans.
Once implemented companies that do not follow the rule face fines of up to $14,000 per occurrence.
The new rules are meant to be a minimum which means companies can require vaccines and not offer testing as an alternative.