Pfizer vaccine authorized for kids 12 to 15, but what’s next?

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was authorized on Monday for emergency use in kids as young as 12, many are wondering what’s next.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to make recommendations for the vaccine use in kids 12 to 15 as early as this week. Once that’s done, kids can start receiving the vaccine.

A pediatric infectious disease physician at Spectrum Health says the expansion could be the boost we need to get back to normal.  

“We’re very excited,” Dr. Rosemary Olivero said. “Really, the findings from that study were astoundingly good and so far, the vaccine when given to those recipients in the 12 to 15 age groups was 100% effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections, which causes COVID-19.”

Studies conducted by Pfizer show that side effects from the vaccine are minimal in children, similar to those in adults.

Doctors say if a large portion of kids — meaning anyone under 18 — aren’t vaccinated, it could create more pandemic issues and help the virus mutate into different forms. They say the more the virus travels from person to person, the more it changes to survive, and at some point, it would mutate to the point where the current vaccine is no longer effective. 

“If COVID stayed the same, we would have a very low hospitalization rate in children, however, we have to continue to confront the possibility that the virus can change in a way that can cause more epidemics and pandemics with large impacts on the adult population as well,” Olivera said.

Kent County Health Department Medical Director Nirali Bora says the announcement should be celebrated.

“As more of our children become vaccinated, they can enjoy the sports they want to participate in, they can go to events, they can sing in choir, they can go to school without interruption. And those are the things that we are really hoping for,” Bora said.

Bora says the expansion of the vaccine comes at perfect time, with cases rising in young people over the past few weeks.

“We are seeing that children can become very ill from COVID and this is a way to protect those children, but also all the people around them,” Bora said.

Olivera and her colleague Liam Sullivan, who focuses on infectious disease in adults, agree that the more people vaccinated, the better the outcome will be to get back to normal.

“We’ve never reached herd immunity in other infections such as smallpox, measles and polo. That’s not going to happen with this one either,” Sullivan said.

Doctors say the only way to reach herd immunity for COVID-19 is through vaccination. 

Once given the green light, KCHD will work to connect schools with pharmacies to provide vaccinations on site. Primary care offices will also eventually offer the vaccine.

At this point, no decision has been made about requiring the vaccine to start school, but Bora says it’s critical in stopping the spread of coronavirus in schools next fall.

“I think for schools, this could be incredibly valuable — a way to help them start to get back to normal,” Bora said.

Bora said she understands the concerns parents may have in deciding to vaccinate their children. She’s encouraging families to talk to doctors and the experts.

“I really do want families to take that time they need to talk to people that they trust. Talk to your doctor, talk to us. We are happy to talk and make sure you have those questions answered. I really do want parents to feel confident in the decision that they are making,” Bora said.

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