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Amid surge of kids with COVID-19, Pfizer offers a ray of hope with vaccine news


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Pfizer and BioNTech have good news for parents who want to protect their children aged 5 to 11 from COVID-19: The companies’ coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective for children in that age group, they announced in a press release Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will obviously look at much, much more data than a press release when Pfizer and BioNTech apply for emergency use authorization, a move that’s expected to come by the end of the month. But data so far reportedly shows that the smaller dose of the vaccine being given to younger children—just one-third of that given to older kids and adults—is producing a comparable antibody response to the older groups, with low levels of side effects. The vaccine trial has involved 2,268 children aged 5 to 11, two-thirds of whom received the vaccine and one-third of whom received a placebo.

FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research director Dr. Peter Marks previously said the agency would review vaccine trial data for ages 5 to 11 “hopefully in a matter of weeks” after the data was submitted. That means those kids could potentially be eligible for vaccination by Halloween, a huge relief to parents who understand that COVID-19 is dangerous to their kids while vaccines have an excellent safety record.

Results for children younger than 5 are not expected until later in the year.

The news of the vaccine’s efficacy comes as concern rises about children and COVID-19. Children’s hospitalizations surged massively over the summer. The last week of August and first week of September brought the pandemic’s first and second highest total coronavirus diagnoses for children, totaling close to 500,000.

“In Mississippi, among the states without a mask mandate, nearly 6,000 students tested positive for the virus in one week, and more than 30,000 students, teachers and staff had to be quarantined,” The New York Times reports. “One county in South Carolina—where mask mandates are banned—had to quarantine more than 2,000 students in one day.”

Vaccines for children are badly needed, in other words. But stopping this surge of infection, and in too many cases hospitalization, among kids requires not just vaccines but vaccination. Many of the hospitalizations have been of unvaccinated children older than 12—kids who are eligible for vaccination, in other words. Once again we’re likely to see vaccination be taken up in some areas of the country, further protecting the population in those places, while other areas let the coronavirus rage out of control rather than accepting a free, safe shot.

Speaking as the parent of a 5-year-old, though … can we just fast-forward to the day my kid gets his shot?