OAKLAND, Calif. - Pfizer announced that it plans to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration to start administering its COVID-19 vaccine to children between the ages of 5 and 11 years-old.
The move is a long awaited milestone in the fight against COVID, especially with many schools offering in-person learning.
If vaccinations are approved for that age group, that would make another 29 million children across the country eligible to receive a dose.
"Our children will be so much more protected," said Dr. John Schwartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.
Schwartzberg said before there's any approval for emergency use or otherwise, has to prove that its safe and effective in 5 to 11 year-olds.
"See all of the data and scrutinize it very carefully. And you know it will be scrutinized incredibly carefully," said Schwartzberg.
COVID vaccines are a bit unusual in the sense that they were developed initially for use on the nation's most elderly and immune compromised people because that's the group hit hardest by the virus.
"Most vaccines are pediatric vaccines," said Dr. Margaret Liu, a infectious disease expert and developer of vaccines. "Most vaccines target kids even younger than 5 years-old."
Even though most children ages 5 to 11 don't develop serious COVID complications and death is rare, they are very efficient spreaders of the virus and can cause others to become ill. This includes teachers, parents, grand parents, and other family members.
But, make no mistake, young children are not COVID-proof.
"There are approximately 500 children in the United States so far who have died of COVID," Liu said.
Experts believe that with child vaccinations schools will be far safer for teachers, staff parents and other family members. Figuring out the precise dose is a prime concern.
"Infants behave differently to vaccines than older children, than teenagers, than young adults," said Schwartzberg. But, overwhelmingly, young children respond well.
"Five to 11, for example, they're already mature in their immune system and they probably have better immune systems than those of use who are older," said Liu.
The next, and last large group to be vaccinated, upon proof of safety and effectiveness, will be the nation's 19 million newborns to 4-year-olds, a group for which most vaccines are created.