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Vaccinating kids aged 5-11 for COVID: What parents should know

SALINAS, Calif. (KION) An independent FDA advisory panel has voted to authorize a lower dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11, making the vaccine one step closer to administration.

While the full FDA and CDC still have to give the green light for final emergency use authorization, that could come as early as next week. Now, parents have a big decision to make.

The smaller vaccine doses are already being shipped out in anticipation of final approval. The pediatric vaccine will be given in two 10 microgram doses, administered 21 days apart. That's one-third of the adult dosage.

But many parents still have questions on how safe the vaccine is for their kids.

Dr. Christopher Carpenter, Natividad Chief of Staff, has been working with parents to help address some of their concerns.

"All parents want to do what's best for their kids. They want to understand and they want to make an informed decision," said Dr. Carpenter. "Many of [the questions] revolve around the side effects, both the common side effects and the more rare side effects. And then I get a lot of questions about the research that has gone into the vaccines."

A big concern for parents is the side effect of myocarditis linked to the COVID vaccines.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most common side effects for the 5 to 11 age group were pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headache. They say safety data from the trials, which included more than 3,000 children who were vaccinated, showed "no serious adverse events related to the vaccine, including myocarditis or anaphylaxis."

"[Parents have] concerns about inflammation of the heart, that very rare side effect. And we talked about what could potentially happen with those side effects and the course of illness that those children have, which recovered fully from their myocarditis," said Dr. Carpenter.

Myocarditis is a rare heart condition that has been linked to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in young men. The inflammation usually subsides on its own in a matter of days.

"I really want to emphasize that there has not been a vaccine that has been more rigorously researched and tested over the last year and a half than the COVID vaccine. A tremendous amount of effort from federal and state agencies has gone into making sure that this is going to be safe for our kids," said Dr. Carpenter.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state is expecting 1.2 million doses of the pediatric formula to arrive in the state in the new few days.

A review from the FDA found Pfizer's pediatric vaccine is nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID.

"I think a lot of parents wonder, well, COVID hasn't affected kids as much," said Dr. Ghaly at a press conference Wednesday morning. "The CDC announced it is the eighth leading killer of young people. So this is not just another thing for kids to take the hit, or take one for the team. This is about protecting kids."

The Western State Scientific Workgroup and the California Department of Public Health will do their own review of Pfizer's pediatric vaccine data before any administration will begin in California.

Monterey County is also holding a community town hall on vaccinations for children on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m. Click here for more information.

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Lisa Principi

Lisa Principi is a reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.

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