Put That Horse Paste Away! Pfizer Vaccine Almost Ready For Kids Under 12
Here's some good news for everyone who's sane and rational about the COVID-19 vaccine: Pfizer announced Monday that its vaccine works for children aged five to 11 and will seek emergency use authorization for the age group soon.
Many parents of children under 12 (myself included) are anxious for their kids to get vaccinated. The Delta variant is highly contagious and there has been an alarming rise in pediatric infections and hospitalizations. More than 240,000 pediatric COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States just between September 2 and 9.
Dr. Bill Gruber, a senior vice president at Pfizer, told the Associated Press that Pfizer tested a much lower dose of its vaccine for elementary school-aged kids — a third of the amount in each shot currently. However, after the second dose, children aged five to 11 had developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels of equal strength to anyone over 12.
The dosage for children is also perfectly safe — no magnetic side effects, just the same sore arms, fever, or achiness that many teens and adults experience, all of which are temporary and preferable to serious illness and death, which is usually permanent.
Gruber, who's also a pediatrician, said, “I think we really hit the sweet spot," which admittedly sounds creepy but he means well.
Pfizer will apply to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use among the younger age group by the end of this month. There's probably a lot of paperwork. A few weeks ago, FDA chief Dr. Peter Marks said once his agency receives Pfizer's study results, it would evaluate the data "hopefully in a matter of weeks" to determine if the shots are safe and effective for younger children. That sounds disturbingly vague. I've worked in operations and “hopefully in a matter of weeks" is usually what you tell a client when you know their complicated request will take forever and what you're actually hoping is that they'll forget all about it after a few weeks.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than five million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. At least 460 children have died. Yes, that's a small percentage, but we're talking about children, and we don't want to see that number minimized like with school shooting deaths. We also don't know the long-term effects of COVID-19 on kids. It's better all around if they never contract this disease in the first place.
Dr. Nisha Gandhi, a critical care physician at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey, enrolled her 10-year-old daughter Maya in the Pfizer study at Rutgers University. Maya had asked why she couldn't get vaccinated like her parents and older brothers, and Dr. Gandhi maybe figured this would shut her up. I kid! No, Maya is a brave little girl for participating in this much-needed study. Unlike the big baby police officers who won't get vaccinated, Maya's a hero who cares about other people.
Maya's parents haven't relaxed the family's COVID-19 precautions, and won't until they learn if she received the real vaccine or a "dummy shot":
Once she knows she's protected, Maya's first goal: "a huge sleepover with all my friends."
Maya said it was exciting to be part of the study even though she was "super scared" about getting jabbed. But "after you get it, at least you feel like happy that you did it and relieved that it didn't hurt," she told the AP.
Moderna is also studying the effects of its vaccine on elementary-school-aged children. It looks like we're turning a pivotal corner in the battle against COVID-19. The only question now is how many dullards will refuse to get their children vaccinated.
@mattyglesias It will likely follow the same trends as with adult vaccinations, with maybe a 7-12 point drop off. T… https://t.co/0CS8RHTys2— Aaron Astor (@Aaron Astor) 1632139287.0
Historian Aaron Astor predicted that the pace of vaccinations for this new younger age group would “follow the same trends as with adult vaccinations, with maybe a 7-12 point drop off." He based this on current differences in vaccination rates for adults vs. 12- to 17-year-olds. Right now, it's hard to say if parents are more or less likely to vaccinate children under 12. However, FDA approval will make this question less academic.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's largest, recently approved a vaccine mandate for students 12 and older. This applies to in-person learning and extracurricular activities. This is also not the first step toward tyranny, as vaccine mandates for other contagious diseases already exist.
I expect more school districts to follow their lead, and once the FDA gives the thumbs up, this can apply to elementary schoolchildren, as well. The bottom line is that more vulnerable people will have protection against COVID-19, and that's objectively a good thing.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."