HARRISBURG, Pa. — Now that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children ages 5 to 11, the race for distribution begins; just one day after approval, millions of kid-sized doses and kid-sized needles are en route to pediatricians and pharmacies across the country.
The Biden Administration has said there are enough doses for all 28 million American children in this age range.
Millions of families are expected to gather for the holiday season, making vaccinating children all the more imperative, top officials say.
“Waiting gives your child a chance to get COVID and we know that though many kids get a mild case of COVID, there are kids that can get severe disease and we can’t really predict which ones will have it,” Pa. Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said.
Parents who are concerned their child is afraid of shots should get the vaccine at their pediatrician’s office, experts say. Staff there are more accustomed to working with children.
“They know how to calm the kids down, how to get that shot in there safely and quickly,” Dr. Mark Goedecker, chief medical officer at WellSpan Health Primary Care said.
Experts strongly recommend children who are traveling for the holidays get their first shot as soon as possible. Children who get their first shot before Nov. 20 and their second shot before Dec. 11 would have the vaccine’s full protection by Christmas.
The FDA confirmed two doses of the vaccine were 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in children ages 5 to 11.
For families gathering for Thanksgiving, children with one dose would have some protection, experts said. It’s still recommended to take mitigation measures as needed and ensure everyone at the gathering is eligible for the vaccine has it.
Vaccine hesitancy remains the largest challenge to people getting both the adult and child vaccines.
“It scares me just like any other flu or cold," Edwin Wallace of York, who has 23 children, eight of whom are still minors, said. "Anything could kill you now. But I’m scared more of the government than I’m scared of something natural."
Most health systems in South Central Pa. will start offering the children’s vaccine on Nov. 5 through 7.
Nearly all age groups could soon become eligible for the vaccine. Trials are currently underway for the Pfizer vaccine in kids as young as 6 months. Results of those trials are still likely several months away.