A young girl gets a vaccine shot.

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COVID-19 Vaccines Approved for Older Children

FDA, CDC recommend Pfizer vaccine for kids 12 and up

With a wholesale return to in-person schooling planned for the fall across the country, including in Miami-Dade County, parents are now asking themselves how safe will the return be? Fortunately, the question can now be answered in large part by parents and children themselves.

In May, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12-15 years old and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) followed with its recommendation for the same age group. This comes after approval earlier in the year for kids 16-and up.

That means that the vast majority of middle and high school students could be vaccinated ahead of the return to school, significantly lessening the chance of spread among these children, their parents and teachers. The CDC estimates that the approval means about 17 million adolescents in the United States can now be vaccinated, strengthening the overall effort to protect people from COVID-19

Considering the widespread vaccination efforts for adults have started to see big drops in COVID-19 infections in states with good vaccination numbers, experts believe that a big push for vaccinations in these children could lead to inoculation from spread in middle and high school.

“Getting adolescents vaccinated means their faster return to social activities and can provide parents and caregivers peace of mind knowing their family is protected,” the CDC said in a statement about the vaccinations. While some parents have already made the decision to get their kids vaccinated, the CDC acknowledged that others still had questions. For those, it recommended talking with a child’s healthcare provider or family doctor to learn more about the vaccine.

Pfizer representatives already announced that they would seek FDA approval to vaccinate younger children, from 2-11 years of age in September, just after the start of the school year. The same representatives said that a request for ages six months to 2 years would come in the fourth quarter of this year.

President Joe Biden said in May that if the vaccine is approved for younger children, federal and state officials will focus on making them available through pediatricians and family physicians in an easy, fast and free manner.

The Children’s Trust is working to help provide vaccines for children through some of its providers, including the possibility of using its mobile medical units to get children vaccinated in low-income neighborhoods. Stay tuned for more information.

Although children have consistently shown to be less likely to contract the virus and typically suffer less severe symptoms when they do get it, some research indicates that new variants of COVID-19 may infect children at higher rates, although a definitive cause for this is not yet known.

“Though most children with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, some children can get severely ill and require hospitalization. There have also been rare, tragic cases of children dying from COVID-19 and its effects, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C,” the CDC said in its statement.

Whether vaccinated or not, parents need to continue to insist to their children that they practice safe habits to make sure to continue to tide against COVID-19 spread. Both Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran called for masks not to be required for school children in the upcoming year, but how Miami-Dade County Public Schools will deal with the issue in the next year is unclear. The school district’s Public Health and Medical Expert Task Force did not recommend any changes to the current mask mandate for the remainder of this school year when they met in May.

Whatever happens with the masks, parents need to insist that their children continue to do the things that have been proven to reduce the spread of the virus, including social distance when possible and wash their hands with soap often.