The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children 5 to 11 years old in Washington state.
The state Department of Health (DOH) expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which reviewed data that found the vaccine to be safe and more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in younger children.
“As a father and as a physician, I have been eagerly awaiting the day I can get my children vaccinated,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah in a Nov. 3 DOH news release. “There are nearly 680,000 kids ages 5 to 11 in Washington. Vaccinating this younger age group will help protect them, keep students in the classroom, and bring us one step closer to ending this pandemic.”
Across the country, COVID-19 cases in children ages 5 to 11 make up nearly 40% of all cases in adolescents 18 and younger, according to the DOH. While it is true children often have more mild cases of COVID-19 compared to adults, they can become very sick and may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe. According to the CDC, more than 650 children under the age of 18 have died of COVID-19.
The Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is administered as a two-dose primary series, three weeks apart. The pediatric vaccine is a smaller dose (10 micrograms) compared to the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 and older (which is 30 micrograms). Side effects reported in the clinical trial were generally mild to moderate and included sore arm, fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and nausea, with most going away within a day or two.
COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children who received the vaccine and have had no serious side effects. Research shows COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and that vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfection.
Families with questions are encouraged to visit DOH’s webpage VaccinateWA.org/kids for information about vaccines and kids, or to talk to their child’s health care provider.
“This is incredible news and, as a pediatrician, I am thrilled younger children are now eligible to get immunized against COVID-19,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett. “It is wonderful to think that families can take advantage of vaccination for both young and old to more safely gather during the upcoming holidays.”
To schedule an appointment, reach out to your health care provider, your child’s pediatrician, local pharmacy, or a mobile clinic near you.
As more pediatric doses arrive into the state, DOH is updating Vaccine Locator and will add an option for “Pfizer-BioNTech Pediatric” vaccine in the coming days. If you have questions or need help scheduling an appointment, call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 833-VAX-HELP. Language assistance is available.
Due to the state’s initial limited pediatric vaccine supply of roughly 315,000 doses, during the first couple weeks families may need to reach out to more than one provider to find vaccines for their kids. Over time, supply will increase and there will be enough vaccine for all eligible children.
• From Public Health – Seattle & King County
The vaccine keeps children and their families safe, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County officials.
Vaccinating younger children protects them from getting COVID-19 and reduces their risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications. National data shows that 1/3 of kids hospitalized for COVID-19 have needed intensive care treatment.
Locally, there have been over 25,000 reported COVID-19 cases among youth in King County, 200 hospitalizations and five deaths since the pandemic began. About 20% of all reported COVID-19 cases in King County were among youth, and youth ages 5-11 currently have the highest rate of COVID-19 among all age groups.
Public health officials said they also see the difference vaccination can make from local public health data. Among youth ages 12 and older, youth who weren’t fully vaccinated were seven times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 19 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to fully vaccinated youth.
Availability of vaccine for kids
There are approximately 183,000 5-to-11-year-old children in King County. In the initial weeks, King County may not have enough to meet the expected demand. However, this constraint will be temporary: Public Health expects enough doses in the weeks ahead to ensure access for every child across King County.