SAN ANTONIO — This week, the FDA expanded emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine to include children ages 12 to 15.
“Most importantly, it draws us this much closer to getting herd immunity for the entire population. When we say that 70 or 80 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated, that includes children,” said Dr. Robert Leverence, Chief Medical Officer for UT Health Physicians at UT Health San Antonio.
Pfizer representatives said the vaccine is 100 percent effective in preventing illness among those in that age group.
“The FDA just reviewed the data on over a thousand children, and to our knowledge, there's not any difference in the tolerance or the adverse effects. Fortunately, they're very rare in Pfizer to begin with,” said Leverence.
Although it’s rare, Leverence said children can have adverse, long-term effects from the virus.
“Most children do very well with COVID, they'll have minimal symptoms or symptoms or no symptoms at all,” said Leverence.
“There's still plenty of children who are vulnerable to having bad outcomes and long-term effects from COVID. In addition, children can transmit COVID to their grandparents, their parents or other individuals as well, so they're not just vaccinating their child, but they're protecting those around their child as well,” he added.
Parents may be wondering if the vaccine will be required for the next school year.
Leverence said right now, that’s not possible because the Pfizer vaccine is still under emergency use authorization by the FDA, but that could change.
“Pfizer has applied for full approval from the FDA, and so even though that might be weeks or months away, that might be a game changer in terms of schools being allowed to mandate,” said Leverence.
Although approved by the FDA, the shot isn’t available yet.
A CDC Advisory Committee will be voting on approval Wednesday, Leverence said it’s expected to get the green light.
He said when that happens, UT Health San Antonio will have the shots available to this age group on Thursday.
Leverence said his advice to all parents is to get their children vaccinated.
“We can understand hesitancy and more so on our children than even in ourselves. But boy, I believe that the the COVID vaccines, particularly the MRNA vaccines, are probably the most effective, and safest vaccines ever created on the face of the earth,” said Leverence.