Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available in kids
Lucy Wing, Content Editor
Nearly eight months after the COVID-19 vaccine began distribution in the general adult population, the Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine has been made available for children over 5 years old. Following the authorization of the vaccine in ages 12 and up, it went into further testing and showed comparable results to immune responses in people aged 16 to 25 years old. It was proven 90.7 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The vaccine went through several rounds of testing and efficacy trials as well as secondary rounds of testing to ensure the vaccine is safe.
“There have been multiple clinical trials in humans establishing that these vaccines are safe and highly effective that have culminated over the last few months, but that is really a product of many years of vaccine research done in the global community, especially led by folks at the Fred Hutch who are leaders in HIV vaccine development,” Dr. Holly Janes, a biostatistician working in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutchinson said.
The COVID-19 vaccine development was made possible by the previous research done in mRNA vaccines for HIV, which allowed the vaccine to move through the process quickly. In April of 2020, the vaccine moved into two rounds of clinical testing in healthy adults, starting with a small-scale safety and immunogenicity trial which then quickly progressed to an expedited large-scale trial.
“Studies were done in several thousand children to demonstrate that [the vaccine] was safe, and it induced similar immune responses in the children that we’re seeing in adults,” Janes said.
Now that the Pfizer vaccine has been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA for kids 5 and up, elementary schools around the country look forward to the protection the vaccine brings.
“I am relieved and excited about the ability for kids to get vaccinated. I know there’s been increased stress in our families and teachers with the knowledge that little kids didn’t have that choice, and it gives people a lot of comfort to know that our kids are more protected— or at least that parents have the option to choose to vaccinate,” Chautauqua Elementary School (CES) principal Rebecca Goertzel said.
Parents aren’t the only ones excited to have the opportunity to vaccinate their kids; the kids themselves are looking forward to it as well.
“I’ve never seen my daughter so excited about a shot. When I said they’re available for her grade, she was like, ‘get on the computer right now,’” Parent and preschool teacher Annie Reissiger said.
But the decision is not with the kids, it’s the parents who must choose whether or not to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.
“I would hope that everyone talks to their doctor and makes the decision that’s right for their family but also that’s right for the community; it’s not always about you. Especially with this virus, it’s about everybody,” Parent and CES staff member Kelly Keenan said.
Without the vaccine available to students, CES has reported a significantly higher rate of COVID-19 cases compared to the other schools in the district. However, even with the vaccine now available, precautions must still be taken.
“I think if we continue in the community to work together through vaccination and being cautious with exposures outside of school, as well as being preventative and staying home and getting tested when you’re sick, we can maintain [low] COVID [rates] and try to get back to a more normal schooling,” Goertzel said.
It takes a lot for a population to develop herd immunity from a virus; everyone must be willing to come together for the safety and health of themselves and their community.
“At a population level, the best thing we can do is lower the rate of transmission of this virus, and the vaccine is an excellent tool for doing that. But to do that we need to sort of act as a team, and kids are part of that team and part of that collective effort,” Janes said.