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What you need to know about COVID vaccines for kids under 12

According to the FDA, the Pfizer vaccine could be approved for emergency use in kids older than 5 by Halloween.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With emergency approval for a COVID vaccine for kids ages 5-11 likely right around the corner, a lot of parents are wondering have questions about getting their kids vaccinated.

WHAS11 spoke with local disease experts from Norton Children’s and UofL Health about the commonly asked question.

How are officials approving vaccines for children so quickly?

Dr. Daniel Blatt, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Norton Children’s said while some may feel the vaccines are being rushed for approval, in reality, they are not.

“Historically we have more people in this trial for the child vaccines than we do in most other vaccines,” Blatt said. “We have more data than most other childhood vaccinations and we also have a pretty long period of time that we've been doing this. we've had months of this and typically, vaccine side effects don’t come after two months after the vaccine."

Blatt said the FDA and CDC will take their time to review data from the studies and will grant emergency approval only if the science shows it is safe.

Are kids getting the same dose of the vaccine as adults?

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Burns with UofL Health said parents can expect to see children need and receive different amounts of the vaccine than adults.

"Children aren't little adults, they're children,” Burns said. “They have to determine what is the correct dose for them."

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech tested a third of the amount given in each shot now. After their second dose, though, children still showed the same antibody levels as teens and young adults.

Which vaccine would 5- to 11-year-olds get?

An email sent to WHAS11 from Pfizer’s German partner BioNTech Tuesday said the company is on track to submit its data to the FDA by the end of September.

Pfizer studied a lower dose of its two-shot COVID-19 vaccine in more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids and will likely apply by the end of the month for emergency use in that age group.

If that’s done, FDA officials said they’ll spend a couple of weeks reviewing the data and then will decide if they should or should not grant emergency use authorization for the vaccine to be administered to that age group.

RELATED: Report: COVID vaccines for kids 5-11 could be approved by end of October

In an email sent to WHAS11, Moderna officials said they anticipate submitting their data to the FDA by the end of the year.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will also need to sign off before doctors can start giving the vaccine to kids under 12.

If both the FDA and CDC sign off and grant emergency approval for the vaccines in kids ages 5-11, both Burns and Blatt say they can start vaccinating kids the same day.

Will my kid's pediatrician recommend the vaccine if it's approved for emergency use?

Burns said there has been extensive research on whether the vaccine is safe for kids, saying he will strongly encourage that age group to roll up their sleeves if it is approved by the FDA.

"We've seen how effective they are and how safe they are," Burns said. "I would have no hesitation getting my child vaccinated based on what I've seen over these past several months."

The infectious disease specialist also said pediatricians should be the most trusted sources, alongside the CDC and FDA. Burns said not to rely on social media for research.

How many Kentuckians would be added to the vaccine eligibility pool once approved?

CDC estimates show 5- to 11-year-olds make up about 10% of Kentucky's total population, a good chunk of people who would be added to vaccination totals if the FDA and CDC grant emergency use authorization.

Credit: CDC

Currently, more than 2.6 million people in Kentucky are vaccinated — around 59%. From that number, teens older than 12 are 70% percent vaccinated.

Kentucky reported 21 children in the hospital with COVID-19. Seven are in the ICU.

"If we can vaccinate them then really it goes a long way to protecting them because children are getting very sick right now," Dr. Daniel Blatt said.

RELATED: Yes, there are treatments for children with COVID-19

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