Wharton County parents may soon have the option to get their children vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus after Pfizer requested emergency use authorization.

Pfizer announced Thursday it submitted an emergency request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for authorization. If approved, it will make the two-dose vaccine the first for children ages 5-11 in the United States.

“With new cases in children in the U.S. continuing to be at a high level, this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against COVID-19,” Pfizer said in a statement. 

Pfizer first applied for emergency use authorization in November 2020 for its adult vaccine. The FDA granted full approval in August to the vaccine for people ages 16 and older.

Vaccine approval could help the state achieve herd immunity and bring the country one step closer to ending the pandemic. As of Oct. 9, 15.1 million Texans (51.8 percent) are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

“A vaccine is one of the most important tools we have in stopping this virus,” Wharton County Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland said. “If we want to get back to normal and not deal with this anymore, it will take all of us to do our part, and that includes getting vaccinated.”

Since the start of the pandemic, 66,465 Texans have died of COVID-19. Recently, the number of deaths per day has slowed, and cases around the state are dropping, according to DSHS.

An average of 55,085 vaccine doses was given each day in the last month. Sixty-two percent of eligible Wharton County residents age 12 and over have had at least one shot, and 52.97 percent are fully vaccinated.

Wharton County parents are unsure about getting their children vaccinated. 

“I won’t be getting my kids vaccinated because there is no study on kids that young yet,” parent Stephanie Supak said. “We don’t know the side effects on kids yet.”

The emergency use request comes after months of clinical trials proved the vaccine provided the same immune response for children as it did for adults, according to Pfizer.

The trial enrolled 4,500 children ages six months to 11 years of age in the United States, Spain, Finland and Poland. It was designed to evaluate the tolerability, safety and immune response of the Pfizer vaccine.

One of the main issues with vaccine hesitancy is the risk of side effects or adverse reactions after getting the shot.

“I am on the fence with this getting my kids vaccinated,” parent Marla Laslie Schumann said. “My 17 and 15-year-olds are vaccinated as well as my husband and I. I’ll talk to my 9 year old’s doctor first.”

The vaccine trial started in March, and the final results in September showed it was a viable option for children.

“Since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 240 percent in the U.S. – underscoring the public health need for vaccination,” Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said. “These trial results provide a strong foundation for seeking authorization of our vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, and we plan to submit them to the FDA and other regulators with urgency.

An FDA advisory committee plans to meet to discuss authorization on Oct. 26.

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