KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Thousands of children, ages 5-11, could be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Christmas. Federal regulators are expected to approve the move in a matter of weeks. Over the next several days, they’ll review the data from studies. If approved, 28 million children would become eligible for the Pfizer shot nationwide.
Dr. Stephanie Shults, a Knoxville pediatrician, plans to recommend the shot when it’s approved. In the meantime, she’s hoping to help more parents feel comfortable with getting their children vaccinated.
“We invite those questions,” Shults said. “We want people to ask and if they’re uncomfortable, go home and think about it, come back we’ll talk it through again. Certainly, we do have people who do have reservations. We’re fine with that. We’ll just keep talking about it.”
The delta variant is causing more spread among young children. Data shows kids, on average, don’t get as sick as adults from the virus; however, they can still become very ill and infect others. Shults says having millions more vaccinated Americans gets us closer to putting the pandemic behind us.
“That herd immunity is so important for those people who may not respond well to the vaccine, or they’re not able to get the vaccine, who may have a more severe illness from that,” she said. “That’s pretty much, with any of the vaccines that we do in our office, that’s what our goal is, to vaccinate enough people that we protect the whole community.”
Shults emphasized like all others, this vaccine is being closely watched and if there was any cause for concern, the medical community would know about it.
“I feel comfortable with the vaccine,” she said. “We have not, to this point, had any problems giving it to the 12 and above age range. … Nothing has happened that we’ve been concerned about thus far.”
Shults also laid out the difference between the COVID-19 vaccine and other shots children receive, including those that offer lifelong protection.
“The measles vaccine, MMR, and the chickenpox are live vaccines,” she explained. “So that means that your body is responding to a continued virus. You’re going to have a stronger response that’s going to respond a lot longer than a vaccine that is not a live vaccine.”
She noted some illness only occur in certain age groups. When immunity wanes later in life, it’s not needed.
Final approval on the Pfizer vaccine for younger children could come Nov. 2-3, during a scheduled CDC advisory meeting.