1/3 Milwaukee Co. cases are in children; leaders encouraged by Pfizer data for kids 5-11

NOW: 1/3 Milwaukee Co. cases are in children; leaders encouraged by Pfizer data for kids 5-11

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Local doctors say Pfizer's highly anticipated announcement on Monday, Sept. 20 about the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine will be key in helping their fight against the virus.

On Monday, Pfizer announced its vaccine is safe for 5 to 11-year-olds. The company said it will file for emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration soon. After that, the FDA could authorize the vaccine within weeks.

Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator for UW Health’s pediatric Moderna vaccine trial, said he believes Halloween is a realistic timeline for children 5 to 11 to start getting vaccinated.

"This all is very positive and really a huge step forward in the right direction," Hartman said. "These kids were able to really establish a robust, very good immune response to the vaccine, and the safety profile looks excellent right now."

The dose for children is about a third of the dose of the adult vaccine. Hartman said that's to make the vaccine safer and prevent severe side effects.

He's also happy to see that there were no instances of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation linked with the mRNA vaccines, during the clinical trials.

"This (vaccine) is something that will protect your child and allow them to get back to as close to a normal life as possible," Hartman said.

Dr. Ben Weston, chief health policy advisor for Milwaukee County, said Pfizer's announcement comes at a time when the community needs it.

"About a third of our cases in the last few weeks have been among children in our community. We're also seeing a higher number of hospitalizations in kids nationally than ever before during the pandemic," Weston said.

He said getting younger children vaccinated will help make schools safer and help protect families with school-aged children, as well.

"Right now, it's limited who can be vaccinated in schools. Kids 12 and older can be vaccinated. Teachers, principals, administrators -- they can be vaccinated, but unfortunately younger children just can't. But this changes that," Weston said.

Hartman notes getting younger children vaccinated will also be important in helping to not overwhelm hospitals, especially as more children are hospitalized with RSV.

"Anything we can do to prevent (people with) any other viruses from needing to go into the hospital, including COVID-19, would obviously be a big advantage to these hospitals, and they can care for the kids that are already there," Hartman said.

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