By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is on its way to being approved for children ages 5 to 11. An estimated 28 million children would be eligible for the vaccine if it is authorized.
Dr. Michael Gutzeit, MD, the chief medical officer of Children’s Wisconsin, held a virtual press conference to address this announcement and the current number of COVID-19 among children on Wednesday, Oct. 27.
The most recent update was in regard to the pending approval of the COVID-19 for children ages 5 to 11. Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and related Biological Products Advisory Committee approved the vaccine for emergency use authorization.
“This is very exciting, but it’s just the first step in the process,” Gutzeit said. “The next step will be for the full FDA to meet and consider that recommendation, if that is approved it will move on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and it’s advisory committee.”
Gutzeit noted that as early as next week potentially there could be approval for emergency use authorization.
“There is a timeline in place and there’s some safety checks and balances in place and we look forward to the next steps in the process for even more people being able to be vaccinated,” he said.
Gutzeit recommended that parents contact their children’s pediatrician or their local health department when the vaccine becomes available.
“Consideration of a vaccine is a very personal choice,” he said. “We know that people will ask questions and will want to know answers to some of those questions before they make the decision to allow vaccination of their children. This is why we encourage conversations with trusted resources.”
Trusted resources include primary care providers, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Gutzeit said. He added that these organizations are committed to the health and safety of kids and the overall population.
“We know that the best form of treatment is prevention,” Gutzeit said. “It is very exciting and very welcome that the potential for more individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon.”
In addition to the vaccine update, Children’s Wisconsin’s Milwaukee hospital has seen a decrease in the number of occupied rooms. From Oct. 20 to Oct. 26, 69% of its rooms were occupied compared to 70% during Oct. 13 to Oct. 19; in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit 74% of the rooms were occupied.
Gutzeit noted that the number of patients in isolation and as well as the number of children who have tested positive for a respiratory illness has increased.
These respiratory illnesses include COVID-19, rhinovirus and RSV or respiratory syncytial virus.
“We’ve been seeing ups and down in terms of the number of cases and the number of infections and we continue to see a very busy viral season overall and earlier than we typically anticipate,” Gutzeit said.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, about 21% of confirmed COVID-19 cases are among individuals under the age of 18. Gutzeit noted that while COVID-19 cases overall are declining, the data indicates that children can be the source behind the continued spread of the virus.
“Mitigation and layers of protection are very important here,” he said. “We want to make sure that we focus on wearing masks, watching distance, washing our hands, working on attending school when well and getting the vaccine when it’s available.”