Public health experts, parents anticipate COVID-19 vaccines for kids five and up

As Pfizer seeks FDA authorization for its vaccines to be available to children 5-11, some Iowa City parents are looking forward to their children being eligible.


Shivansh Ahuja

Syringes for the COVID-19 vaccine lay on a counter at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. The center received the Moderna vaccine for its employees.

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

Some parents are hoping their kids ages 5 to 11 will receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available, following promising results from a new Pfizer-BioNTech study.

Pfizer asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for the age group on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

The decision comes over a month after the U.S. authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 17. The FDA fully approved the vaccine for adults in August.

With the new research, some parents and families are hopeful they can feel safer by having their children vaccinated in the next month.

Julie Fitzpatrick, a physical therapist from Iowa City, said she plans to vaccinate her 10-year-old daughter for the health and welfare of her family.

“I trust the science and feel safe after being vaccinated myself,” she said. “My spouse and I never got COVID, even with exposures, so I see it as really effective from a personal standpoint.”

Fitzpatrick also has a 13-year-old who was recently vaccinated, and said he’s had no side effects or a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

“I feel like it’s the best option for right now — numbers are going down and vaccination has a lot to do with that,” she said. “I want our children safe, and it’s important to trust the science on this.”

According to the AP, allowing kids ages 5 to 11 to get the vaccine would expand availability to roughly 28 million more U.S. children.

RELATED: UI researchers’ survey highlights adolescent, parent concern about COVID-19 vaccine

The number of new cases of COVID-19 among children rose dramatically starting in July, but the numbers have fallen through September and early October, reflecting a drop in cases across all age groups. Kids are at a lower risk for hospitalization, severe illness, and death from COVID-19, but among children, there have been 5.9 million cases and at least 520 deaths, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As of Oct. 8, there are two pediatric inpatients currently at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, making the total number this year 90, according to UI Health Care’s online publication for faculty and staff, The Loop.

Johnson County Community Health Division Manager Sam Jarvis said preliminary reports from Pfizer show promising results from this age group.

He said the vaccines are safe and effective, as shown in kids 12-17.

“Vaccination in this age group will have a dramatic impact on COVID hospitalizations,” Jarvis said. “The strategy now is to continue to go on with daily activities like school, which is why it’s important for teachers and daycare workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Some parents are anticipating the vaccine to improve the outcomes for their children who are at higher risk for COVID-19 hospitalization and severe infection, Jarvis said.

Sarah Bengston, a physical therapist from Iowa City, said her son has some seasonal allergies and stronger symptoms when he has other respiratory illnesses, making her worried that he would have a worse infection if he got COVID-19.

“I never know what might happen with him,” Bengston said. “I’m hopeful he can get the vaccine so he can be better protected.”

Bengston said she understands that the decision to get vaccinated is personal and different for every family.

She said she hopes people will talk to health care providers they trust, so they can make informed decisions about how best to protect their families.

RELATED: UIHC employees receive COVID-19 booster shots

“Although the technology is new, I feel confident in the vaccine,” Bengston said. “The adverse effects of the vaccine are rare, and the possibility of getting COVID-19 outweighs any worries I have about the vaccine.”

Jarvis said he expects to see approval from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the end of the month.

As parents wait, he said, it’s important for them to talk to their child’s pediatrician and other health experts they trust.

“Parents should have this conversation now — there’s plenty of information shared with experts and published with answers to important questions,” Jarvis said. “I strongly encourage everyone, despite their age if they’re eligible, to get vaccinated.”