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  • Writer's pictureJanice Lin

Let’s Talk About COVID Vaccines. Again.

COVID is almost hitting its second birthday at the end of 2021. The COVID vaccines are almost hitting their one-year birthday. Now that there have been vaccines out for a while, people seem less careful about staying six feet apart and putting a mask on.

What people forget is that while one who is vaccinated will very likely not get sick if infected, they may infect others who are unvaccinated and not by choice. For example, children under 12 have yet to get access to COVID shots, but they are the same demographic that has been suffering from the Delta and Delta plus variants.

So far, Pfizer asked the FDA to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, since their vaccine is available to those above 12. The FDA has set a date of October 26 for its panel of outside advisers to meet and discuss the application, making it possible for children in this age group, around 28 million kids, to receive the vaccine.

From Pfizer’s clinical trials for this age group, kids five to 11 will be getting 10 milligrams per dose compared to 30 milligrams per dose given to kids 12 and up. Since these vaccines have smaller dosage, Pfizer is planning to send packages straight to physicians’ offices to make it more accessible to all children.

Even though the FDA panel did determine the Pfizer vaccine to be approved for children ages 5 to 11, the leaders of the FDA need to sign off on the advisory panel's decision, and then the decision will move to the CDC’s vaccine advisory group. By the time you read this, it is most probable that the CDC has also approved the use of Pfizer’s vaccine for this age group.

Moderna has requested FDA permission to use its vaccine in 12 to 17-year-olds and also is studying its shots in elementary school children. Both Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger children as well, down to 6-month-olds. These results are expected later in the year when the clinical trials are finished.

Now that we have discussed younger children, what about those who already got their first shots early this year? How long does the immunity from these vaccines last? As of the writing of this article, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for booster shots while Moderna and J&J are both waiting on the FDA.

It is recommended to look at booster shot eligibility if you got your Pfizer COVID vaccine more than 6 months ago or if you got a J&J inoculation. However, this is good news for everyone because the FDA allows people to mix and match booster shots. You may be eligible for a booster shot if you are: 65 years and older, 18+ and live in long-term care settings, 18+ who have underlying medical conditions, 18+ who work in high-risk settings, or 18+ who live in high-risk settings.

As for Westchester County, 70% of the population is vaccinated, which theoretically means that we have reached herd immunity. Also, the horizon seems positive for younger children which would only improve the vaccination rate. However, the scientific community warns against believing that the pandemic is over. First, it should be obvious that the virus doesn’t stay within national borders. Second, there are always new variants appearing as the pandemic is prolonged.

The medical community continues to monitor new variants popping up; yet, the delta variant has continued to be dominant all over the globe. In the future, there may become a variant that bypasses the vaccine’s immunity, so vaccine makers have already started preparing for this possibility.

Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, made a bold promise in June, saying that if the need arises, his company could get a vaccine for a new variant ready within 100 days. According to Nature, a British scientific journal, Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca have all done clinical trials for vaccines against the Beta and Delta variant. All three companies claim that the current vaccines on the market are what work best, but they continue to perform trials.


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