Children 5-11 can now get COVID-19 vaccinations

Published 4:00 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children 5-11 years old get the new low-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, though CDC’s data shows that children under 12 made up less than 1 percent of all COVID-19 deaths since January 2020.

“The Pfizer COVID vaccine was approved by the FDA for use in the 5-11-year-old pediatric population this week,” said Dr. Josh Isles, pediatrician at KDMC Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic. “There is only one contraindication that would prevent children from being eligible to receive the vaccine and that is having a previously diagnosed allergy to a component of the vaccine.”

If a child has had COVID, then he or she must be symptom free and out of quarantine before receiving the COVID vaccine, he added. However, “the Pfizer COVID vaccine can be administered at the same time as other routine childhood immunizations, including the flu vaccine.”

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Isles said the pediatric vaccine trials began in the spring of 2021 in multiple locations across the world. 

“It has been shown to be safe and 91% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19,” he said. “The vaccine uses the same technology and components as the adult and adolescent Pfizer vaccine, but children aged 5-11 are only administered one-third of the dose.”

The pediatric Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses, three weeks apart like the adult formulation, the CDC explained. Pfizer said the lower dosage was chosen to minimize side effects.

“This is an important step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus that causes COVID-19,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky. “We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC blamed pockets of low adult vaccination rates, relaxed social distancing and schools reopening with more kids ending up in the hospital.

“Definitely over the last eight weeks we’ve seen dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in kids,” said Dr. Bryan Jarabek, chief medical informatics officer at M Health Fairview in Minnesota. “It started right when we started school.”

Mississippi Today reported that USA Today noted that in August and September, shortly after cases began to rise, hospitalizations of children with COVID-19 increased across the U.S. Weekly pediatric admissions reached a peak of more than three kids per 100,000 the week ending Sept. 5 and have since declined in most states along with adult COVID-19 admissions.

Rauch stresses the need to weigh the danger of a coronavirus infection in children with the risks posed by influenza and RSV, two other viral illnesses he sees consistently striking large numbers of children, especially the very young.

“RSV year after year has been the single No. 1 cause of pediatric hospitalizations,” he said.

The Mississippi Department of Health pre-ordered 50,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine after the Food and Drug Administration approved it under an emergency use authorization Oct. 29. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said that these doses and any further shipments will be distributed equitably to local partners and county health departments.

“I think that there’s going to be broad availability for these vaccines for the parents that are interested in going ahead and getting their kids vaccinated right out of the gate,” Byers said in Mississippi Today.

The federal government is shipping 15 million doses of the pediatric vaccine across the county this week.

To date, 72,103 children ages 5-17 in Mississippi have contracted COVID-19 and six have died. Nationally, 1,997,660 children ages 5-11 have contracted COVID-19; 8,300 have been hospitalized and 172 have died, per CDC data.

“COVID has not gone away, but luckily we are in a much better place than we were in August and September,” Isles said. “Hopefully since the vaccine rate has increased in adults and now that more children are eligible to receive the vaccine, any future surge will not be as severe as what we saw caused by the Delta variant.”

The CDC and Mississippi Today contributed to this report.