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Children ages 5-11 are eligible for Pfizer's low-dose COVID-19 vaccine


Many parents already know what they think of this news. They've been poised, hands on the doorknob, ready to run out to get shots for their kids aged 5 to 11. And they are now authorized to get those shots as soon as they can find a place that is ready to administer them. The CDC gave final approval to COVID vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds last night. NPR's Allison Aubrey is covering this story. Allison, good morning.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Let's work through the evidence here. What is the case for vaccination for 5- to 11-year-olds?

AUBREY: You know, the advisers who met yesterday to weigh in on this really brought to light that though many kids do get only mild symptoms from COVID, there are lots of cases of serious illness. More than 700 children have died from COVID. Among 5- to 11-year-olds, there have been 172 deaths, more than 8,300 hospitalizations. Here's one of the panel members, Dr. Oliver Brooks, explaining his vote.


OLIVER BROOKS: The bottom line is the data showed here today that the vaccine is safe and effective. So children are dying and we can reduce hospitalizations, cases and deaths with a safe and effective vaccine that will benefit the community.

AUBREY: Now, polls show that a lot of parents are on the fence about this, but there are plenty of eager parents, too. We plan to get our 10-year-old daughter vaccinated at the first opportunity.

INSKEEP: Something similar happening in our family. We will talk about people who have skepticism in a moment, but will shots be available for the parents who want them as soon as today?

AUBREY: Well, shots can start now, but it may be early next week before the campaign is fully operational. Thousands of pediatricians have signed up to administer the vaccine. Many pharmacies, community health centers and, in some areas, schools will administer it, too. But remember, it's a new product. It's a lower dose vaccine packaged separately from the one given to adults and older adolescents, so it's being shipped out and distributed. Here's Dr. Lee Savio Beers. She's president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

LEE SAVIO BEERS: We know that states are making their deliveries of the vaccine now, and so parents should reach out to their pediatrician or their local communities to find out where the vaccine will be available. It may take a few days. It may - you know, it maybe go into next week, but everyone's working as hard as they can.

AUBREY: Now, each state is handling distribution a little bit differently, Steve, so best to check in with your pediatrician or local pharmacy and try to schedule an appointment.

INSKEEP: Let's keep working through the evidence here. You mentioned that the CDC advisers found that there is a degree of risk even for little kids, not as big as for older people, but there's a risk, and that's why they recommend this vaccine. But aren't there also some side effects?

AUBREY: Yeah, lots of discussion of this yesterday. The most common side effect is a sore arm, not surprisingly, but turns out fever and chills are pretty rare among 5- to 11-year-olds. That's what the clinical trial data showed. Regarding serious risks, the chief concern has been myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle. It's very rare in the range of about one case per 20,000 or so and mostly seen in adolescent boys and young men. But there have been no deaths from myocarditis following COVID vaccination, and most patients recover quickly. Here's one of the members of the committee, Dr. Matthew Daley, a pediatrician in Colorado, who wants parents to hear this message.

MATTHEW DALEY: It's understandable that you have questions and concerns, and this may be particularly true given what seems to be a deliberate campaign of disinformation out there. And so I would just encourage you to talk to your child's pediatrician or family physician. You know, ask your questions, tell them what your concerns are.

AUBREY: The most recent data from the CDC shows that 38% of 5- to 11-year-olds have antibodies to the virus, indicating they've already had COVID, but the recommendation that these children should still get the vaccine. And that's because pediatricians say while there is some degree of protection following a COVID infection, it won't last as long or be as strong as the immunity that comes from the vaccine.

INSKEEP: Allison, I want to ask about one more group of families. Some parents have kids under 5 and, of course, is anxious for people that have been able to protect themselves, can't protect their kids. When can parents with kids under 5 expect news?

AUBREY: You know, Pfizer and Moderna are both working on this, but they would need to submit their data to the FDA. This could be months away.

INSKEEP: Allison, thanks so much.

AUBREY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Allison Aubrey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.