SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Just over a week ago, U.S. health officials approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11. Since then, hundreds of Utah children have gotten their first dose.
Pfizer’s shot became the first available for this young age group, affecting 28 million American children. Ahead of the federal approval, the Utah Department of Health ordered an initial shipment of 109,000 pediatric doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. A statement from the department following the FDA’s approval says the state will begin making weekly orders now. Doses are shipped directly to healthcare providers and have already started arriving at their offices.
In Utah alone, health officials say nearly 336,000 children are now eligible for the vaccine. As of November 10, UDOH reports just over 11,100 – or about 3% – children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received their first dose.
Children in this age group make up about 12.4% of the state’s eligible population, the same percentage as those in the 12-18 age group. According to UDOH, about 53.5% of this age group is fully vaccinated – that’s the lowest rate of any age group in Utah, with the exception of the 5-11 age group.
State epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen tells ABC4 coronavirus cases are highest this school year among elementary-age kids. With the COVID-19 vaccine now available for this age group, Dr. Nolen says she is hopeful cases and hospitalizations will begin to go down.
“I think we can be hopeful by getting these kids vaccinated their rates will go down and their community’s rates will go down,” she explains. “I think we can have hope this will have an impact throughout our state. We know that it’s not just affecting them but who they can pass it on to and how it affects the community.”
Where can my child get the vaccine?
As we saw with all other rollouts of the COVID-19 vaccine, providers like health departments, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices are offering vaccinations.
Some local health departments are already scheduling appointments. According to UDOH, appointments are expected to be widely available at other providers by Monday, November 8.
For a full list of vaccine providers, visit the state’s website. You are encouraged to check this site often, call your child’s doctor’s office or pharmacy, or the local health department for information, and to schedule a vaccination appointment.
Is the vaccine safe?
Pfizer’s study of over 2,200 children found the kid-sized dose is nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. As Associated Press reports, 16 children who received placebo doses were diagnosed with COVID-19 while just three tested positive after getting the real vaccine.
Still, a recent survey found 65% of Utah parents are apprehensive about getting their children vaccinated because of the potential side effects.
The FDA examined more children, a total of 3,100 who were vaccinated, in concluding the shots are safe. The younger children experienced similar or fewer reactions – such as sore arms, fever, or achiness – than teens or young adults get after larger doses.
According to the Associated Press, the FDA’s study wasn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second full-strength dose, mostly in young men and teen boys. Regulators ultimately decided the benefits from vaccination outweigh the potential that younger kids getting a smaller dose also might experience that rare risk.
What else should I know?
The CDC reports more than 8,300 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have been hospitalized for COVID-19, with about one-third needing intensive care. At least 94 children in this age group have died because of the virus.
Pfizer is now testing COVID-19 vaccine shots for babies and preschoolers. That data is expected to be available around the end of the year. The Moderna vaccine is also being studied among younger children but the FDA has not yet cleared its use for teenagers.
Some countries, like China, have already begun using the vaccine in children under the age of 12. The Associated Press reports China began vaccinating children as young as 3-years-old.