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Ask Dr. Nandi: Pfizer says its vaccine works in children 5 to 11

Posted at 3:34 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 17:27:09-04

(WXYZ) — COVID-19 vaccines for children have taken a giant step closer to reality. Pfizer is expected to file soon for Emergency Use Authorization, having recently announced positive clinical trial results for kids aged 5 to 11. But the dose for this group will likely be less than what’s approved for those aged 12 and up. As to why they’re different, let’s bring in our Chief Health Editor Dr. Partha Nandi to find out.

Question: Dr. Nandi, how does a lower dose affect younger children?

Dr. Nandi: Right now, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has Emergency Use Authorization for adolescents 12 to 17, and it’s been fully approved by the FDA for adults 18 and up. Now the dose for these age groups is 30 micrograms. But as mentioned, Pfizer went with a much smaller dose - 10 micrograms - for children aged 5 to 11.

So why did they do that? Well, because children have different immune systems. They are not the same as adults. And during the trials, the researchers found that children didn’t need a higher dose to generate a strong immune response. So strong in fact, that the antibody response matched what Pfizer has seen in clinical trials for teenagers and young adults.

On top of that, when the younger kids were given a higher amount, they had more side effects. Whereas with the lower dose - 10 micrograms- the children rarely experienced fever and chills.

Question: Parents are still concerned about myocarditis even though Pfizer said that it was not seen in their trial. Could it show up after more kids have had the shots? And with flu season almost upon us, can parents vaccinate their children for both COVID and influenza at the same time?

Dr. Nandi: Yes, myocarditis - that’s inflammation of the heart muscle - became apparent once more people got the shots. But I want to stress that it’s extremely rare. You have a 99.999% chance of it NOT happening.

Having said that if myocarditis does develop - so far it’s been diagnosed mostly in teen boys - it’s often mild and treatable.

Now, regarding your other question, yes, children can get the COVID vaccine and the flu shot at the same time. In fact, they can get other immunizations with it as well, except for living viral vaccines, like chickenpox and measles. It’s best to space those ones apart.

I’m super excited that vaccines for kids 5 to 11 are in the works. Even though children have a lower risk of severe illness, 548 have still died from COVID. And it’s now one of the top 10 causes of pediatric deaths.

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