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Doctors optimistic about impact of COVID vaccines for kids under 5, if approved

At Blank Children's Hospital, 94% of kids hospitalized with COVID were unvaccinated, according to Dr. Joel Waddell.

DES MOINES, Iowa — EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above is from the evening of Feb. 1

On Tuesday, Pfizer began the process of getting its COVID vaccine approved for kids less than 5 years old when they submitted clinical trial data to the FDA. But there are still several regulatory steps the company has to go through before the vaccines are approved. 

Doctors Local 5 spoke to are optimistic that if they are cleared for use, these shots could make a difference at a crucial time in the pandemic.

"I think it would be a large step forward in preventing the spread of COVID, getting more and more back to normal," said Dr. Joel Waddell, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician with Blank Children's Hospital. 

He's seen the benefits of the COVID vaccines firsthand: at Blank, 94% of kids hospitalized for COVID weren't vaccinated.

"A large number of the children are vaccine eligible and have not been vaccinated. And so it's very likely that a large portion of these hospitalizations here in central Iowa could have been prevented," he said.

Those shots won't just be helping keep your kids out of the hospital, they are helping others, as well. The addition of a vaccine for kids under five would reduce the spread of the virus in entire communities, health experts say.

"This just completes the circle of protection," said Dr. Sara Schutte, a General Pediatrician with MercyOne. "We've got the elderly, the high risk. We got pretty much all adults and then the 12 to 18, and now we've got the five to 11. So now we're completing the circle down to six months of age."

Renae Douglas of Knoxville is planning on making a vaccine appointment for her three-year-old as soon as it's available for that exact reason. Her husband is immunocompromised, and told Local 5 she is looking forward to having her entire family vaccinated.

"It's gonna be a big load off our shoulders, because we've been trying to cocoon the kids after my husband and I got vaccinated, and then we were cocooning the baby, and now he'll be vaccinated and we'll all be mostly protected," she said.

So, when will parents like Douglas be able to book an appointment for the shot?

The FDA advisory panel will be meeting on Feb. 15 to vote on approving the vaccine for emergency use. If approved, it would then go to the CDC for another vote and a final recommendation. 

For comparison, when Pfizer's vaccine was approved for kids between five and 12 last fall, it took just over a month to complete the process. 

Currently, Pfizer is the only company with a COVID vaccine that is being considered for kids under five. Moderna is working on tests for two to five-year-olds and expects to report its findings in March.

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