SC epidemiologist: Child vaccination against COVID-19 can cut school cases

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 2:54 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 27, 2021 at 3:11 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s state epidemiologist urged parents to get children vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as possible once the vaccine is approved for their age group.

Dr. Linda Bell said during the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s weekly COVID-19 briefing that she expects the Food and Drug Administration to issue an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for children five to 11 years old within the coming days.

She said children in that age group could begin receiving the vaccine by the end of next week.

“The approval for this new age group will give us a huge advantage in fighting the pandemic because if we can get as many eligible children as possible vaccinated quickly, it can mean a significant reduction in cases in schools that are disrupting learning currently,” Bell said.

The FDA voted on approval based on evidence that showed the benefits of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for children ages five to 11 outweigh its risk, she said.

“Parents should be reminded that the risks among children from COVID infection are real,” she said. “We know that in the most recent surge in cases as more seniors were vaccinated COVID cases largely shifted to younger age groups, and since it takes a full five weeks to complete the series and be considered fully vaccinated with a positive vaccine, getting kids vaccinated as early as possible could really change how our children their families in our communities can enjoy the upcoming holidays and allow children to return to school being well protected.”

Bell said the agency is finalizing details of the pediatric vaccine rollout to help distribute the vaccine doses in K-12 schools.

Bell said a consistent drop in new COVID-19 cases suggests that the COVID-19 vaccine is working.

But the fact that deaths are not decreasing, in the same manner, could be because of multiple factors, she said.

“First of all, there’s a lag, unfortunately, in the complications that result from COVID infections,” Bell said. Some COVID-19 patients may be hospitalized for a prolonged period of time.

Another factor, she said, is people with comorbidities who may still contract COVID-19 even as the number of new cases are dropping.

“This is why we continue to recommend being vaccinated for those who have a weakened immune system, to get the booster doses, and for those new populations for whom booster doses are recommended to go ahead and get that now,” she said.

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