Since Nov. 2, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for kids between the ages of 5 and 11, more than 1.5 million kids have already received their first shot.
The vaccine rollout program has moved swiftly—and so have many families. With stuffed animals in tow, children have lined up at pediatricians’ offices, schools, pharmacies and other vaccine clinics around the country to get their first jab, to the relief of many parents.
The Biden administration stated that it has purchased enough vaccines for every single one of the 28 million children in this age group, nearly 2 million of whom have contracted Covid since the start of the pandemic.
Children under 18 represent 22% of the U.S. population—and 27% of all Covid cases. While Covid is often more severe in adults than in kids, children can still be hospitalized or die from complications of the virus.
“Sharing this life-saving vaccine with our children is a huge step forward and provides us all with more confidence and optimism about the future,” says AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP in a press release.
“We know from our experience with the Delta variant that this virus is unpredictable, and we cannot afford to be complacent. It is critical to use science and data to guide our decisions about the pandemic and school COVID-19 plans,” Dr. Beers says. “We have also entered flu season, and now have an opportunity for children to receive vaccinations for both the flu and COVID-19, which can be done during a single visit.”
Currently, about 5.5% of kids aged 5-11 have received their first dose, which means there’s still a long way to go in vaccinating the entire demographic. An Oct. poll run by Kaiser Family Foundation found that just 27% of parents planned to get their 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated as soon as shots were approved. Another 30% said they would not get their kids vaccinated, and the remaining third said they’d wait and see.
It’s unknown if or when vaccine administration in this age group will plateau. Comparing this rollout to that of shots in the 12 to 15 age group is like comparing apples and oranges, as the vaccines for adolescents were the same dosage as the shots already available for adults—requiring less of an initial push. The pediatric vaccines are one-third the dosage of the adult vaccine, and packaged in different vials with smaller needles.
The pediatric vaccines have been found to be safe and highly effective, with only mild side effects. Vaccines could help return a sense of normalcy for kids, as this is the third school year affected by the pandemic. The resulting school closures, hybrid learning modes and quarantines needed to help stop the spread have had a significant negative impact not only on learning, but also on children’s mental health.
First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden is on a tour promoting the kids’ vaccine around the country, making stops at various schools and children’s hospitals to appeal to parents directly to get the shots for their children.
I brought some friends to Houston with me! Thank you @TexasChildrens, Superman, Wonder Woman, @Surgeon_General, @HoustonRockets, and all the comfort pups🐾 for your help getting kids ages 5 and up vaccinated. Parents, it’s the best way to protect your children against COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/HNndzSkcBu— Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) November 15, 2021