COVID vaccines needed for younger children, South Florida doctors say

Pfizer shots may be deemed safe for kids ages 5-11 next month

Pediatric hospitals in South Florida are seeing more children seriously ill with COVID-19 since the spike of the delta variant. Pfizer's vaccine could be deemed safe for younger kids in the coming weeks.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Pfizer says it expects to file safety and efficacy data for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in early October, and for those as young as 6 months old in the weeks after.

Doctors say it is a critical next step in protecting against the virus.

“We have seen very, very sick patients, pediatric patients, in our hospital,” said Dr. Hanadys Ale, a pediatric immunologist at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, where on Wednesday they had 15 patients fighting COVID-19. “If we can save one child of not getting severe COVID and not succumbing to COVID, I think we have done something positive, something important.”

And that’s not just coming from a doctor and expert, but from a mom who says she believes in vaccines. So much so she has enrolled her 1-year-old son in vaccine clinical trials.

“I got vaccinated myself,” Ale said. “He was newborn when I got the vaccine, and I breastfed him [so] that my antibodies are going to pass to him.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, children were not as affected as adults, often asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

But said says the delta variant has changed that, and kids are getting sicker.

COVID cases among kids in the United States jumped 240% in just the past six weeks.

In Florida, the age group with the most new COVID-19 cases last week was the under-12 population that is ineligible to be vaccinated. The state said that 17,165 children under 12 became infected with the virus from Sept. 3-9.

So why are ages 5 to 11 the next step?

“It’s sort of a group that has more or less the same physiology,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, infectious disease expert at Florida International University.

She says including a new age group means a higher percentage vaccinated, making it harder for the virus to spread, or worse yet, mutate into a deadlier form.

It could also lead to fewer COVID-19 cases in schools.

“Getting those individuals vaccinated will facilitate everything else,” Marty said.

WATCH MORE: Dr. Hanadys Ale addresses frequently asked questions she gets from parents regarding COVID vaccines

WATCH MORE: Dr. Aileen Marty discusses messenger RNA vaccines in greater detail

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.