By Rachael Cardin

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Big news on the vaccine front; Pfizer has requested emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children age 5-11.

Currently, the vaccine is only approved for anyone over the age of 12, but by the end of the month that could be changing.

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If approved, doctors explain children under 12 would get about 1/3 of the dosage of vaccine administered to an adult.

Dr. Esther Liu, Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, said, “the risk of the illness itself far exceeds the risk of the vaccine.”

She said she is disheartened to see young COVID patients, struggling as they fight the virus. She said parents should talk to their health care provider; “what we thankfully have not seen are any major complications of the vaccine, but it’s a risk benefit-I never promise my families anything is 100% effective or 100% safe.”

Some parents and grandparents said they want the children in their life vaccinated, for their own safety and the safety of their family.

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Others think the risk is too great, citing the known rare side effect of myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle. One woman told WJZ, “I think it’s dangerous for the older kids, we’ve seen myocarditis, so I think it’s a risk and I don’t think it should be allowed.”

Vaccines have been available for children 12 and up since May, but only 50% of 16 and 17 year-olds are vaccinated. 43% of kids ages 12-15 have gotten the shots.

As children attend school with their peers, transmission in the classroom is a top concern for health officials who are now seeing about 25% of weekly COVID cases are children.

Dr. Liu said there has been a 25% increase in weekly pediatric COVID cases since early on in the pandemic when the younger age group was less susceptible to the disease. Now that kids are back in school, interacting with their peers, she said it is crucial they be protected. “The impact of this will be really able to protect our school-aged kids,” Dr. Liu said.

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Kierstan Etheridge is a Baltimore City resident with nieces and nephews of all ages. She said, “five is pretty young, but it’s at a good age where kids their immune systems are stronger than younger kids like newborn to two.”

Rachael Cardin