Gov. Cooper, health leaders discuss N.C.’s COVID-19 defense as state preps for vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11

Pfizer is the only one that has submitted a request for emergency use authorization for a vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11
Governor Roy Cooper speaks in Winston-Salem following a fatal shooting at Mount Tabor High...
Governor Roy Cooper speaks in Winston-Salem following a fatal shooting at Mount Tabor High School on Wedensday.(WXII)
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 1:31 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV/AP) - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the state Wednesday afternoon as the state prepares to receive vaccinations for children between the ages 5 to 11.

Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 key metrics and trends, which shows trends heading in a positive direction.

“We are grateful to see this latest surge in COVID-19 taper off,” said Gov. Cooper. “And as we try to drive down our numbers, we know what works. Vaccines. The more people who get their shots, the less COVID we’ll have.”

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are now available for more North Carolinians.

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster shots to help strengthen and extend protections against COVID-19 infections.

Pfizer booster shots have been available since Sept. 24.

“I am encouraged to see that every day more people are making the decision to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Cohen, M.D. “Getting vaccinated is a powerful action you can take to protect your health, to protect your loved ones, and to help end this pandemic at last.”

To date, since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,472,655 confirmed cases in North Carolina, along with 17,935 deaths.

As of Wednesday, North Carolina has administered over 11.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 66 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. 71 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 92 percent of North Carolinians 65 and over.

Vaccines may be available for younger children as early as the end of next week.

On Tuesday, the independent advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration recommended the use of Pfizer’s vaccine in children 5 to 11 years.

Once the CDC completes its review process, there will be ample vaccine supply across the state.

“We expect the federal government will soon give the green light to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11 years old,” Gov. Cooper said. “North Carolina health officials have been preparing for this and working to ensure parents can easily get their children vaccinated and protected.”

More than 750 locations are preparing to provide vaccines to this age group, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, local health departments, community vaccination events and family vaccination sites.

Currently, Pfizer is the only one that has submitted a request for emergency use authorization for a vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11. Cohen expects about 4,000 doses in the first shipment to North Carolina.

It would be two doses - given 21 days apart - and it would contain a third of the amount of vaccine an adult would receive.

Health leaders say they’ve seen such negative impacts of children not being able to do normal childhood activities - going to school and playing - because they can’t be vaccinated.

Federal health regulators said late Friday that kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appear highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections in elementary school children and caused no unexpected safety issues, as the U.S. weighs beginning vaccinations in youngsters.

In their analysis, FDA scientists concluded that in almost every scenario the vaccine’s benefit for preventing hospitalizations and death from COVID-19 would outweigh any serious potential side effects in children. But agency reviewers stopped short of calling for Pfizer’s shot to be authorized.

The agency will put that question to its panel of independent advisers next Tuesday and weigh their advice before making its own decision.

If the FDA authorizes the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make additional recommendations on who should receive them the first week of November. Children could begin vaccinations early next month -- with the first youngsters in line fully protected by Christmas.

Full-strength Pfizer shots already are recommended for anyone 12 or older, but pediatricians and many parents are anxiously awaiting protection for younger children to stem infections from the extra-contagious delta variant and help keep kids in school.

The FDA review affirmed results from Pfizer posted earlier in the day showing the two-dose shot was nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infection in young children. Researchers calculated the figure based on 16 COVID-19 cases in youngsters given dummy shots versus three cases among vaccinated children. There were no severe illnesses reported among any of the youngsters, but the vaccinated ones had much milder symptoms than their unvaccinated counterparts.

The CDC recommends boosters for everyone who received the Johnson & Johnson shot more than 2 months ago.

Health officials say boosters are also recommended for people who received the Moderna or Pfizer shot more than 6 months ago if you are 65 or older, if you are 18 or older and have a medical condition that puts you at higher risk or if you live or work in a setting that puts you at higher risk for exposure to COVID-19.

In Phase 3 results released Thursday, the companies said its booster showed “a relative vaccine efficacy of 95.6%” when compared to those vaccine recipients who did not receive a booster

The trial evaluated the effectiveness and safety of the booster dose in more than 10,000 individuals 16 years of age and older. No safety concerns were identified in this study.

The Pfizer booster was authorized for emergency use for some Pfizer vaccine recipients on Sept. 24. Boosters were cleared for people 65 years and older, adults with high risk of severe infection and those whose jobs put them at risk.

“Vaccines save lives,” said Dr. Cohen. Getting vaccinated is a powerful way to protect yourselves and loved ones and end to this virus”

On Wednesday, the Pfizer booster was also cleared for emergency use for those who received Moderna and J&J vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson recipients should get that booster two months after the initial dose, no matter their age. Moderna recipients should get a booster six months after their second shot if they are 65 and older, or if they are younger but have an underlying condition, or a high-risk job or living condition.

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