NEW ORLEANS — Over the last several months, more than one million Louisianans have completed their covid vaccine series. Currently, anyone 16 and older is eligible to get vaccinated, but that’s about to change.
The Federal Drug Administration is expected to expand authorization of the Pfizer vaccine to anyone 12 or older, and that could happen as soon as next week. This will allow thousands of children across the state to get protection from the deadly virus.
“It’s shown to be very safe, it’s shown to be very effective. We don’t expect anything less in children. In fact if anything, we’re more rigorous with our safety testing with children,” said Dr. John Schieffelin, associate professor of pediatrics at Tulane University.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, adults 70 and older account for more than 67% of deaths in the state.
While coronavirus is proven to be deadlier for older adults, Dr. Schieffelin emphasizes vaccinating kids is just as important.
“Most children actually don’t have any symptoms. There’s still a risk that they can acquire the infection, become symptomatic and spread it around to other members of our community,” said Dr. Schieffelin.
Use expansion for the Pfizer vaccine will also protect students and staff at schools. Tyjah Cowart, a New Orleans native who has a 13-year-old sister, says the vaccine is a great way to keep adolescents safe.
“To be honest, I want my sister to receive the vaccination cause she’s in high school, about to go to high school, and you really never know what could happen,” said Cowart.
Dr. Schieffelin says kids may experience side effects like soreness in the arm of the injection, a low grade fever and headache, but he says those symptoms typically subside after 24 hours.
Kids between 12 and 15 will still have to get both shots of the Pfizer vaccine, just as adults do, and they’ll have to have permission from a parent or guardian.
Dr. Schieffelin says that vaccine trials are underway for kids younger than 12-years-old, but that age group may not be able to get the shot until sometime next year.