COVID vaccine: Children's Wisconsin prepares for expanded eligibility

Children ages 5-11 could get their first shot at COVID-19 protection as early as Nov. 8, with some fully protected by Christmas.

It all depends on the timeline of approval of Pfizer's vaccine for that age group. The company announced Friday, Oct. 22 that its vaccine is 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections in elementary school-aged children.

Children's Wisconsin said, as soon as it's given the all-clear, parents can sign their kids up to get the shot at their pediatrician's office and clinics. They are already in the process of being set up.

"It’s going to be life-changing for kids and getting kids back in school and keeping kids safe," said Dr. Kristin Bencik, Children's Wisconsin primary care group. "Ninety percent is amazing. Most of our vaccines, we're happy if they’re 65% to 70% effective."

Bencik is eager and hopeful for U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approval of Pfizer's vaccine for kids ages 5-11 within the next two weeks. She said doctors are ready as soon as regulators give the go-ahead.

"Those doses are a third of the adult dose. They're going to ship them to clinics. We anticipate at Children’s we can start giving vaccines as early as Nov. 8," said Bencik. "It really depends on if all those steps fall in line, but we are already planning for urbanization clinics and doing them in our primary care offices."

Bencik said, right now, Children's Wisconsin anticipates an initial surge of maybe 35-45% of the age group to get the shot, hoping more will turn out.

"We know this is going to make a huge difference, but only if people choose to do it," said Bencik.

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The lastest Children's Wisconsin data shows 20% of new COVID-19 cases are among kids, indicating children in the community are continuing to test positive and contribute to the spread of the virus.

With shots already routinely given to children ages 12 and up, Bencik said the vaccine is critical when it comes to safety.

"We’ve seen COVID go rampant through schools," said Bencik. "We’re going to be altogether wanting to see our family members. This is the best thing you can do to keep your kids safe, keep your grandparents safe, to keep everyone immunocompromised around and safe.

"We know vaccines don’t alter you. All vaccines do is they produce an antibody response. This vaccine is no different than any other vaccine.

Children's Wisconsin

The FDA is respected to post its review of Pfizer's data later Friday.

Once the COVID-19 vaccine is available to younger children, children in that school-aged population, will not need to quarantine – which would have a significant impact on time spent out of school.

When approval is given, parents can sign kids up online with MyChart or on the phone.

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