Local pediatrician talks FDA’s authorization of Pfizer vaccine in children as young as 12

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/NewsNation Now) — The FDA announced Monday that the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was authorized for emergency use in children 12 to 15 years of age.

Before that, only people 16 years old and up were able to take the vaccines. The company had announced recently they would seek authorization to expand the age range.

“The thought is that the more people, the more kids in [the] total population that we can get vaccinated, the quicker that we’ll get rid of it overall,” said Pediatrician, General Practitioner, and Medical Director at Medical Dojo in Amarillo, Libby Ellington, M.D.

With the authorization, Dr. Ellington said the vaccine will not only protect kids but also help mitigate the spread of the virus in schools.

“The most recent study that was in that age, you know, 12 to 15-year-olds, and they studied over 2,000 kids. They gave half of them the vaccine, half of them a placebo. And, you know, nobody in the vaccinated group got the illness. Somewhere around 20, in the non-vaccinated group, got the illness. I just think that they’ve decided in that age group that the risk of getting the disease and the potential sequela from that is greater than the risk of having a vaccine,” said Dr. Ellington.

“Today’s [Monday’s] action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D.

According to Dr. Ellington, the side effects that kids may experience do not really differ from those seen by adults.

“The study didn’t really identify any additional side effects,” said Dr. Ellington. “Obviously, you know, sight tenderness, I think is a big one … some fever, body aches…”

Next up is testing whether the vaccine works for younger children. Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun U.S. studies in children ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore whether babies, preschoolers and elementary-age kids will need different doses than teens and adults.

“The only way, really, to get to that 70 to 85% vaccination rate is to start immunizing the kids, and, you know, really to have herd immunity and to eradicate that disease. That’s the numbers. That’s kind of where we need to be. So in order to achieve that, we’re gonna have to immunize the kids,” said Dr. Ellington.

Dr. Ellington said she encourages every age group that is eligible for a vaccine to get one.

“If you vaccinate kids, then you’re … protecting their parents, you’re protecting the grandparents, their aunts, and uncles, and eventually the entire community and helping to eradicate the disease,” said Dr. Ellington.

The CDC will make its decision on permitting the age update on Wednesday, making Thursday the first day shots could be available for children 12 to 15 years old.

WATCH: Casie Stoughton talks about the Pfizer vaccine being made available to children at APH vaccine sites

Until now, the Amarillo Public Health Department has only administered the Moderna vaccine. It is only for those 18 and up.

Public Health Director Casie Stoughton said in Tuesday’s Amarillo City Council meeting that they would now administer the Pfizer vaccine in addition to Moderna, but with a stipulation. 

Those 18 and up who go to the city’s vaccination clinics will be required to take the Moderna vaccination, and those 12 to 17 who go will be required to get Pfizer.

Stoughton said this is because they have a limited number of doses of Pfizer.

Click here to see more information on the City of Amarillo’s Vaccine Clinics, or to find a vaccine near you click here.

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