Teen vaccine data showing effectiveness for 12-to-15-year-olds is encouraging for schools, experts say

Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 5:27 PM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Pfizer dropped some more encouraging news in the fight against COVID-19.

The company said its vaccine is safe and effective for kids as young as 12 years old.

A study of more than 2,000 children -- ages 12 to 15 --shows that none of them got sick with COVID-19.

Health experts say vaccinating young people will be a critical step in ending the pandemic.

They say it could be a real game-changer as we hope for a normal school year this fall.

That is a big focus for parents.

The question is, how can this change the way students are going to school?

”He was even like well mom can’t you just tell them I’m 16!” said parent Shawanda Irby, talking about her son Aiden.

Aiden has not left the house for most of the year.

Irby has been extra careful making sure he does not get COVID-19. He has asthma that could land him in the hospital or worse.

”It could possibly be deadly if he were to contract it,” Irby said. “So yeah, it’s really really scary.”

The 14-year-old’s way out of the house is a vaccine.

None of the three vaccines approved for emergency use are approved for people his age. However, he might not have to wait much longer though.

Pfizer said its data is promising.

It will submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration soon and ask for an update to its current emergency use authorization (EUA).

The company already has the EUA for people aged 16 and older.

Dr. Laura Sinai, a local pediatrician, has high hopes for the vaccine’s impacts on schools.

”Everyone is thrilled with the initial data from Pfizer,” said Dr. Sinai.

Pfizer said the data shows 100 percent of the teens in the vaccine group did not catch COVID-19.

Sinai calls these numbers preliminary.

She said 2,200 participants is not enough to get an exact number.

Dr. Sinai said the real-world numbers will be close to 100 percent effective but not quite.

“It will be close, but 100 percent does not factor in people with real-world situations. For example, the Pfizer vaccine in the EUA says it is 95 percent effective. Data shows it’s 90 percent effective in the real world,” Dr. Sinai said.

Dr. Sinai said the focus should be on what this could mean for the fall.

It could mean a close-to-normal school year without some of the safety precautions your child is used to seeing.

Things like masks and social distancing might have to stay in place, but it could possibly not be enforced as strictly as it is now.

Sinai said vaccinating students also helps keep teachers and school support staff from running the risk of getting sick as well.

Another thing for parents to consider is the side effects.

Dr. Sinai feels parents will be happy to know the side effects are the same in the teens as they are in the adults.

A stiff arm, body aches, chills, etc. are the typical effects you see after a shot.

Dr. Sinai said Pfizer’s data shows it’s the same for children.

” There are so many reasons why kids need in-person school so if this is the step that can get you there, it is well worth doing,” Dr. Sinai said.

Hearing that is encouraging for Irby who wants to make sure her student Aiden can have as close to a normal school year as possible.

”Hopefully we can get that answer soon and we can get everyone in my family vaccinated,” said Irby.

A Pfizer spokesperson says the company hopes to start vaccinating all teens 12 and up before the next school year.

Well if there are students younger than 12, there is some good news as well.

Pfizer said it is already testing its vaccine on children five to 11 as well.

The company plans to start testing two to five-year-old children next week.

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