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As approval for Pfizer COVID vaccine for under-12 age group approaches, hesitancy continues

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Posted at 5:16 PM, Sep 20, 2021

CINCINNATI — Pfizer and BioNTech said Monday that late-stage trials of its COVID-19 vaccine in children show that the shots were safe and effective in kids aged between 5 and 11.

The results mark a key step in getting the vaccine approved for younger school-aged children, but some Cincinnati parents are worried about the possible side effects.

"We're not one of the families that's going to get the vaccine due to many reasons," said Eugene Lee, a local parent.

Lee and his fiancee, Candis Jones, have a 10-year-old and 8-year-old twin boys who are split on what to do. Brother A'avion wants the shot. His brother does not.

For Jones, the issue is what she has seen at a recent family reunion. Five vaccinated relatives caught break-through COVID-19 cases while unvaccinated loved ones showed no sign of the disease.

"Until they can come out with a guide telling me this is how many people was okay, they're not getting the COVID, they're free from the COVID, then maybe," she said. "But not right now. It ain't safe for us. Not right now."

In its press release, Pfizer said children who received low-dose shots in the Phase 2/3 trials developed virus-fighting antibodies about as well as adults who received two typical shots of the vaccine.

"We are pleased to be able to submit data to regulatory authorities for this group of school-aged children before the start of the winter season," said Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech's co-founder and CEO. "The safety profile and immunogenicity data in children aged 5 to 11 years vaccinated at a lower dose are consistent with those we have observed with our vaccine in other older populations at a higher dose."

Area doctors also said they support Pfizer's finding.

"The risks of having a bad outcome for COVID either being long-term side effects or death are much greater than any potential risk from the vaccine," said Dr. Chris Peltier, an area pediatrician. "Even though it seems like it's relatively new, there's actually almost 20 years of research behind this."

The Pfizer vaccine has already been fully approved in the U.S. for everyone aged 16 and up, and is available for those aged 12 to 15 under emergency use authorization. It is expected the vaccine will be given full approval for those under 12 in the next week or so.

"What we're seeing is that kids and adults, if they are vaccinated, if they do get COVID, they are much less likely to have a serious illness," Peltier said.