SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — About 18 million people in the U.S. still aren’t eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but that could change soon.
Pfizer and Moderna both say they’ve created vaccines that are effective for kids 5 years old and younger.
Earlier this week, Pfizer said its vaccine is 80% effective in preventing the virus in youngsters. Kids would get one-tenth of the dose adults do.
Local doctors say opening vaccines to the youngest Americans will help reach the goal of herd immunity.
“That is a population that has been known to get sick, ill from viral illnesses and this is a respiratory illness,” said Dr. Michael Bossak a pediatrics specialist at Memorial Health. “A lot of the times that causes a lot of respiratory distress and so babies, kids under the age of five this would be a big bonus for them.”
But some health experts question how much interest there would be. It’s still lagging for kids ages 5-11, who became eligible in November. In Chatham County, about 20% of that age group has gotten one dose of the virus.
“We’ve had some uptake but not a tremendous uptake,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Coastal Health District. “The more widespread our levels of immunity, the less likely we are to see this circle of infection continue.”
With each new variant, doctors say more kids are getting sick. As cases start to rise again, health experts say vaccinating the youngest could help slow the cycle of surges.
“We’ve got more variants out there that we know are coming that are even more contagious than this one,” Davis said. “BA.4 and BA.5 have already been identified in South Africa and in the U.S. And at least one of them has been identified in Georgia, although I’m not aware that we’ve identified any in the Coastal Health District.”
The FDA is planning to meet in mid-June to talk about vaccines for kids, but the approval process could take months.
“For those kids who are younger and younger, the more people who get vaccinated, the closer we get to herd immunity which means we can protect the kids who can’t get vaccinated,” Bossak said.
Doctors encourage parents to get their kids a booster shot once it’s been five months since their first dose. They also urge parents to get their kid tested if they’re showing symptoms like fever, cough or congestion.