COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Around 25 million more Americans could get a COVID-19 vaccine soon, including those as young as five years old.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer has asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine in kids ages 5-11. Kids in this age group would receive a lower dose of the vaccine compared to the one available for adults.
Parents have mixed reviews on hearing the news. Brianne Vaskovardzic has three kids in Cobb County Schools. While her oldest has already been vaccinated, her two youngest aren't yet eligible for the vaccine. However, if the FDA were to give emergency use authorization, Vaskovardzic said she would have her six and 10-year-old get the shot.
"Right now, our schools are basically super spreader central," Vaskovardzic said. "We’re looking to get back to a little more normalcy in our lives and a little more safety for our family and community.”
Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health showed a spike in the number of COVID cases around the time school started and the delta variant was spreading rapidly throughout the state. If Pfizer's emergency use authorization request was approved, nearly 10 million Georgians would be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Around 800,000 Georgians became eligible for the vaccine when the FDA granted emergency use authorization for those between the age of 12-15
"Every person who’s not vaccinated is a place for COVID-19 to spread and then for the virus to possibly mutate," Jodie Guest, vicechair of Emory University's department of epidemiology, said. "This becomes an incredibly important group to protect from COVID-19, but also important to get them vaccinated so we can stop the spread of COVID-19. If the FDA grants emergency use authorization, they’re saying this vaccine is safe.”
Mahua Chatterjee, her husband and their 14-year-old son are all vaccinated. But her 11-year-old daughter is not, and Chatterjee said she was skeptical about having her daughter get vaccinated. In her opinion, there should be more data than the fewer than 2,300 younger kids sampled in Pfizer's trials.
“There are so many unknowns," Chatterjee said. "Everyday, we’re learning new facts. We are not opposed to vaccines, but they need information. They need transparency, they need the data to support their decision-making.”
Guest said the FDA usually likes sample sizes for kids in that age range. She said if the FDA granted emergency use authorization to a vaccine for a certain age group, they believe the vaccine is safe.
"We’ve needed to study these vaccines under a very shortened timeline," Guest said. "No safety steps were skipped. No data information steps were skipped when we review these vaccines. They’re currently the most heavily studied vaccines in the history of all of our vaccines. Even if their risk for severe COVID-19 might be smaller, every single person we vaccinate makes a difference for us in getting out of this pandemic at the level we’ve been and the suffering we’ve seen for the last 18 months.”
11Alive reached out to various school districts in the Metro Atlanta area to get their reaction.
Atlanta Public Schools:
"We continue to study the feasibility and need for a vaccine mandate in our district. Part of that process is following the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), the Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH), and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)."
Fulton County Schools:
“Fulton County Schools continues to encourage our community to get the COVID vaccine. We have offered all employees multiple opportunities to receive the vaccine through clinics held in partnership with the Fulton County Board of Health. We are proud of the more than 83% of our employees who have voluntarily received a vaccine to date. We are also excited about the news of more people being eligible to receive vaccines. FCS has no plans to require COVID-19 vaccines of students or staff unless mandated by the state."
City of Decatur Schools:
"At this time, the GA DPH nor the DeKalb Board of Health have listed COVID-19 vaccinations on their list of required vaccinations for students, thus CSD cannot require vaccinations for students in our schools. While the Board and I agree that vaccinations are the best way out of this pandemic, requiring them for students is simply something we cannot do at this time."