AUSTIN, Texas - Children between the ages of five to 11 are now able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after the CDC and FDA approved its use.
"This opportunity to vaccinate children who are five to 11 with the Pfizer vaccine is really critical for us," said Valerie Smith, Pediatrician and member of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Taskforce.
The FDA and CDC gave the greenlight to the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine allowing states to begin vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11 as soon as possible.
"One of the really keyways to reduce spread within our communities and, ultimately, reduce death and serious illness, not just among the pediatric age population, but among our entire community is to be able to vaccinate school aged children," said Smith.
Texas is expecting to receive over a million pediatric doses that will be divided to over 900 providers in 155 counties over the next week.
"We know that this illness has killed children in the United States. Over 150 children have died from this illness. We don't want that. Now that we have an option, we can save these children and we look forward to that," said Elizabeth Knapp, Co-Chief of Pediatrics for Austin Regional Clinic.
The Pfizer pediatric vaccine is said to be a third of the current adult dose.
"Children are not just little adults. Their bodies work differently, their immune systems work differently so we want to give them the dose that's designed and tailored specifically for their age range, how their immune system is functioning, and for their size," said Smith.
This approval makes 2.9 million Texas kids eligible for the vaccine. Local pediatric clinics like Austin Regional Clinic are planning to open up appointments to kids as they await their shipment of the low-dose vaccine.
"I think it's a wonderful sign that we have this science behind how we make sure this vaccine is safe and this vaccine has been shown to be effective and safe in children. In fact, maybe it's even slightly more effective in children than it is for adults even though it's the lower dose. Their little bodies are just ready to fight off that virus," said Smith.
Austin Public Health is also taking steps to vaccinate Central Texas kids by hosting two walk-in clinics at Delco Activity Center and Old Sims Elementary on top of its Shots for Tots clinics.
"We will have vaccinators who are skilled in vaccinating children, so they've worked with children before they know how to vaccinate them and so that should make the kids feel a lot more comfortable when getting vaccinated," said Chris Crookham, program manager of the Immunizations Unit for Austin Public Health.
Pediatricians agree this pediatric vaccine approval could not come at a better time.
"So many families who are just ready to get back to a little bit more of life as usual, to be able to see their grandparents over the holidays without worrying that they picked up a germ from school and they don't want to bring it home to the grandparents. Everybody is ready for this next step," said Knapp.
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