On October 29th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use for the ages 5-11. The following Tuesday, Nov. 2, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) also officially recommended the vaccine. This means Pfizer is currently the first and only provider of pediatric vaccines in the U.S. for children 5-11 years old, which can be administered at pediatrician offices, pharmacies, and vaccination sites.
The only major difference between the pediatric and adult vaccines is size: the Pfizer vaccine for children contains only a third of the mRNA in its adult counterpart. Nevertheless, it is still reported to have 90.7% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, with side effects from the vaccine being mostly mild.
This comes after child hospitalizations and deaths spiked with schools reopening across the U.S. “We've had hundreds of children who have lost their lives, thousands who have been hospitalized and whose lives have been disrupted because of COVID-19," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said to CNN. "We want to protect our kids. We want them to get their lives back." Parents, however, are split on whether to vaccinate their kids.
The first shot was administered on Wednesday, Nov. 3, to seven-year-old Gael Coreas at Mary’s Center in Washington, D.C. “We are very excited,” Coreas' mother said to reporters. “We waited a long time and it’s very special for me.” However, this enthusiastic sentiment is not shared by the majority of American parents.
In a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only a third of parents responded that they would vaccinate their children as soon as possible. "We just want to wait until there is more of a population that's been recorded and studied to make sure that the [adverse] side effects... aren't outweighing the benefits for the vaccine," Mother of two Sarah Gilbert said to NPR. The FDA, however, has already determined that the pediatric Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for children, and that the benefits outweigh potential risks. The FDA and CDC advisory boards both recommended the vaccine after reviewing its studies, the FDA unanimously with one abstention and the CDC completely unanimously. Vaccinating children is essential not only to protect them but the general public, too. Making up 22% of the total U.S. population, child vaccinations are key in reaching herd immunity.
Almost a year into vaccinations, though, the U.S. has still not reached herd immunity. Experts estimate that to reach this metric for COVID-19, 70% of the population would have to be immune. However, only 58% of the U.S. is actually vaccinated. With 28 million children now eligible for the vaccine, the U.S. is still not expected to reach herd immunity just yet because of vaccine hesitancy. It is ultimately up to the parents to stop the spread in schools and among children, and up to the rest of the global population to halt the pandemic for good.
Through Teen Lenses: Have you taken the COVID-19 vaccine? If so, do you encourage parents to get their children vaccinated as well? If you haven’t, why not? What would advise parents to do?
“I’ve gotten both my COVID-19 vaccines and I plan to get the third shot if necessary, too. I’m willing to sacrifice a sore arm for my safety and the safety of my loved ones. I think it’s the responsible thing to do and I would urge any person who can get the vaccine to get it, if not for you or your family then for the [people] who can’t get it.”
Annika McCarrick, Junior at Thomas Edison High School, Virginia
“I have taken the covid vaccine and I would advise parents to vaccinate their kids too. Although healthy children aren't likely to end up in the hospital after contracting COVID, you never know if your child could be the one that does. New variants are constantly [coming up] because of those who are unvaccinated, so it's better to be safe than sorry.””
Agata Colon, Sophomore at Thomas Edison High School, Virginia
“I’ve taken the vaccine, and would advise anyone who hasn’t to get it for themselves and children. It's safe and proven to be effective. Some people argue that it’s against their personal freedom to get vaccinated, but public health and safety, I would say, bypasses someone’s personal freedom in this instance. People not getting the vaccine is directly contributing to the pandemic, and if we want it to end, people need to get vaccinated.”
Mackenzie Blair, Junior at Thomas Edison High School, Virginia