BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Paige Rahn tells 12 News she was “elated” to hear Pfizer would seek authorization from federal regulators for its COVID-19 vaccine in kids ages five through 11 years old.
Her 7-year-old son is at higher risk due to a chronic lung disease he developed by being born prematurely.
“We’re afraid of him getting COVID because it could potentially kill him,” Rahn said.
Rahn said when her son was a baby, he was intubated after being born weeks too early.
“I know what that looks like. So, being faced with potentially looking at that again is terrifying,” Rahn said.
On Monday, Pfizer reported that in a trial participants 5 to 11 years of age, the company’s vaccine was “safe, well tolerated and showed robust neutralizing antibody responses.”
Though tested in a lower dose, about a third of what people older than age 12 are getting inoculated with, the company said the antibody responses “were comparable to those recorded in a previous Pfizer-BioNTech study in people 16 to 25 years of age.”
The news comes as the American Academy of Pediatrics says child cases have “increased exponentially” in the first two weeks of September.
Pfizer’s trial involving nearly 2,300 children is still ongoing.
Dr. Katrina Byrd, an internist with Lifespan specializing in infectious diseases, said child cases in Rhode Island have mostly involved eligible unvaccinated older kids or kids at higher risk.
“We are slowly seeing a little bit of an uptick, but to be fair, it’s not the same amount of kids we were seeing in December and January,” Byrd said.
Byrd said parents should note this is only an announcement from Pfizer, and additional evaluations are still needed.
“Still, the FDA and its European counterpart will need to look at the data and also make sure it’s safe, too,” she said.
Rahn’s older son was able to get his vaccine last month when he turned 12. She said waiting for the FDA to authorize vaccines for younger children has been a hard reality.
“There have been times when our oldest has wanted to go do something as a family, and we’ve had to say we can’t because we’re not all vaccinated,” she said. “I feel badly for our youngest because he knows he’s the only one who’s not vaccinated.”
Rahn said she knows not every parent will be as eager as she is, but hopes they do their research and consider getting their child vaccinated once they’re eligible.
“I can see it from both perspectives, but at the same time, having seen your kid on a ventilator when they’re just a few days old, I wouldn’t want anybody to ever go through that, and the risks are just too high right now,” she said.
Annemarie Beardsworth, a spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Health, tells 12 News that Pfizer’s announcement is “promising news, as this is one step closer to more Rhode Islanders being protected against COVID-19.”
“It will be important to hear what the FDA, CDC, and ACIP say about their review and approval of this new dose of this established vaccine for children,” Beardsworth said in a statement. “It is meaningful to note that children have more robust immune systems than adults, so it is encouraging that a smaller dose than what adults get generated a strong antibody response. We continue to closely monitor the status of Pfizer vaccine for this age group.”
Pfizer said results in children under five years of age are expected as soon as later this year.
Meanwhile, educators are bracing for the possibility of new mandates if Pfizer receives federal approval for younger children.
Karen Davis, the director of Country Side Children Center in Portsmouth, said she would require children ages 5 through 11 to be vaccinated, especially if the R.I. Department of Health makes it mandatory.
“We believe that vaccines are really important,” Davis explained. “[We’re] just making sure that their kiddos who are going to school every day are in a safe environment.”
But some parents, like Maddalena Cirignotta, tell 12 News vaccines shouldn’t be required for children to attend school or daycare.
“What frightens me is being forced into a product that has very little safety data whatsoever,” she claimed.
Byrd suggested any parent who’s concerned about the vaccine should consult with their pediatrician.