by Jennifer McDermott and Lauren Neergaard
Parents tired of worrying about classroom outbreaks and getting sick of telling their elementary school-age kids about sleepovers and family gatherings felt a wave of relief Thursday when Pfizer asked the US government for a 5 Asked to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for 11-year-olds.
If regulators go ahead, shots for low-dose children could start in a matter of weeks.
This could bring many families closer to being done with distance learning, virus scares and frequent school closures and quarantines.
“My son asked about playing sports. ‘After you get vaccinated.’ He asked about seeing his cousins again. ‘After you get vaccinated.’ A lot of our plans are on hold,” said Sarah Stafiere of Waterville, Maine, whose 7-year-old child has a rare immune disease that has forced the family to be extra vigilant during the pandemic.
“When he is vaccinated, it will give our family our lives back,” she said.
The availability of the vaccine for nearly 28 million more American children is seen as another milestone in the fight against the virus and comes amid an alarming increase in serious infections among youth due to the extra-infectious delta variant.
It would also take the US vaccination campaign ahead of the rest of the world, at a time when many poor countries have dire vaccine shortages.
The Food and Drug Administration must decide whether shots are safe and effective in young children.
Many parents and pediatricians are battling for protections for young people under the age of 12, the current age cutoff for COVID-19 vaccination in the US
Nine-year-old Audrey Moulder, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Drexel Hill, waits to visit her grandmother without worrying that she will pass on COVID-19 to an older woman.
“She’s excited because she feels like it’s a responsibility,” said her father, Justin Moulder. “She wants to keep her friends and her family safe.”
Dr. Amanda Powell, an internist and pediatrician who runs a clinic in Portland, Maine, looks forward to scheduling worry-free play dates and planning a family trip again after her 9-year-old son’s vaccinations Huh.
“We want to be able to resume some normal activities,” she said.
But there are also many parents who are wary of getting the shot themselves and are in no hurry to get their kids vaccinated.
Heather Miller, a mother of four from Dexter, Maine, said she wants to wait for follow-up studies on the vaccine. “I’m not 100% against getting it eventually, but I fall into the ‘not now, wait and see’ category,” she said.
Cindy Schilling, an elementary school principal in West Virginia, which ranks last in the percentage of fully vaccinated residents, said it has been a bad start to the year because so many kids test positive or quarantine at different times. which makes it difficult for teachers and students to stay on track.
Still, she said she often hears parents say they are more concerned about the effects of the vaccine than about COVID-19.
“Some parents are in for it and getting it for peace of mind,” she said, “but most parents I’ve talked to aren’t getting it.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, while children have a lower risk of serious illness or death than older people, COVID-19 sometimes kills children – at least 520 in the US so far.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said their research shows young children should now get one-third of the dose given to everyone. After their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 had levels of virus-fighting antibodies as strong as those of teens and young adults with regular-strength shots.
26, an independent expert panel advising the FDA will publicly debate the evidence. If the FDA authorizes emergency use of child-sized supplements, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final decision after hearing from its outside advisors.
To avoid mix-ups, Pfizer plans to ship low-dose vials specially marked for use in children.
It conducted a low-dose study in 2,268 volunteers aged 5 to 11 years and said there were no serious side effects. The study isn’t close enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as heart swelling that sometimes occurs after a second dose of the regular-strength vaccine, mostly in young men.
Moderna has requested FDA permission to use the vaccine in 12 to 17-year-olds and is also studying shots of it in elementary school children. Both Pfizer and Moderna are also teaching young children as young as 6 months old. Results are expected later in the year.
AP journalist Emma H. Tobin contributed to this report.
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