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What to know about Bay Area kids ages 5 to 11 and COVID vaccines

SF Gate logo SF Gate 10/15/2021 Amy Graff
With her husband Stephen by her side, Erin Shih hugs her children Avery, 6, and Aidan, 11, after they got their second Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Friday, June 25, 2021. Avery and Aidan are part of the KidCOVE study evaluating the safety and efficacy of the Moderna vaccine in young children.  © MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Dail/MediaNews Group Via Getty Images

With her husband Stephen by her side, Erin Shih hugs her children Avery, 6, and Aidan, 11, after they got their second Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Friday, June 25, 2021. Avery and Aidan are part of the KidCOVE study evaluating the safety and efficacy of the Moderna vaccine in young children. 

The wait for kids ages 5 to 11 to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine is nearly over.

Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization of its vaccine for this age group earlier this month, and the White House on Tuesday told states to prepare to get shots into the arms of children.

Anxiously waiting parents may have some questions about the vaccine, and to get those answered, we checked in with Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital.

SFGATE: When will the Pfizer vaccine be available for ages 5 to 11? Dr. Dean Blumberg: The FDA will have a meeting Oct. 26 to consider Emergency Use Authorization [EUA] for children 5 to 11 years of age. [Check for updates here.]

SFGATE: Is it possible kids could get their first shots before Halloween? 

Blumberg: It’s possible, but after the FDA EUA is issued, we still need the CDC to meet and deliver guidelines for use in this age group, so that may take another few days.

SFGATE: Will kids be getting a lower dose than adults? Will they also be getting two doses?

Blumberg: Yes, the Pfizer/BioNTech studies used one-third the dose used for those 12 and older and found roughly equivalent immune responses and adverse effects for 5- to 11-year-olds. [Clinical trials in adults found that while reactogenicity side effects, such as pain at the injection site, are common, they are usually mild. Serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.]

SFGATE: Will kids receive the same protection from the vaccine that adults have been getting?

Blumberg: We do not have efficacy data for this age group yet, but we do expect the same amount of protection based on the immune responses. The goal of this vaccine is slightly different from those for chicken pox and polio — the goal is to reduce severity of illness and not eliminate infection, as well as reduce the risk of infections that may result in transmission to others who may be at risk for serious disease.


Video: COVID: Bay Area Pediatricians Prepare As FDA Mulls Authorizing Vaccine For Kids 5-11 (CBS SF Bay Area)

COVID: Bay Area Pediatricians Prepare As FDA Mulls Authorizing Vaccine For Kids 5-11
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SFGATE: Are the potential side effects for kids the same as for adults? 

Blumberg: The side effects appear to occur at a similar rate compared to 12- to 15-year-olds and and 16- to 25-year-olds. The most common side effects are pain and swelling at the injection site, and systemic side effects such as fever, fatigue, headache, etc. 

SFGATE: Do you think kids getting vaccinated will help end mask mandates?

Blumberg: Since the vaccines do not work 100% of the time, masks provide an additional degree of protection, which is important considering the delta variant is incredibly infectious. It is difficult to know when we can discontinue masking, but I think when most people are immune either by being vaccinated or having previous infection, then breakthrough infections will be unlikely to result in serious illness and masks will then be optional.

SFGATE: When are vaccines for even younger kids likely to be available?

Blumberg:

Data for ongoing studies for children 6 to 23 months and 2 to 4 years of age are expected toward the end of the year, so the vaccine may be available for these age groups early in 2022.

SFGATE: How big a concern are reports of myocarditis in young people? 

Blumberg: Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, or pericarditis, inflammation of the sac around the heart, are rare side effects that appear to be more common in young males. Myocarditis also occurs after COVID-19 infection. The overall risk of myocarditis is higher for those unvaccinated compared to those vaccinated. So if parents are worried about myocarditis, my recommendation is to vaccinate your child.

 

SFGATE:  If I’m 11 and get the 10 microgram shot, when I turn 12, do I need to supplement since 12-year-olds get 30 microgram shots?  

Blumberg: I am waiting on CDC guidance for what to do in these situations.

SFGATE: If I have a kid who is about to turn 12, should I hold out for the larger dose when they’re 12?

Blumberg: The immune responses are robust in either case. My recommendation is to get children vaccinated and protected as soon as the vaccine is available for their age group. If you wait, you take the chance of them getting infected in the meantime.

SFGATE: Do you have any thoughts on how California will roll out the vaccine for kids? 

Blumberg: I expect that there will be some mass vaccination clinics for children, similar to what we have seen for adults, since these are very efficient at delivering vaccine. However, most parents will be more comfortable having their children vaccinated in their primary provider’s office rather than a COVID-19 vaccination site or pharmacy.

What questions do you have about coronavirus vaccines? Email them to agraff@sfgate.com.

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