UT Health San Antonio medical and scientific experts are preparing a public education campaign about the importance of getting COVID-19 vaccinations now to prevent the possibility of a winter surge. The organization also is preparing to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-11 when the vaccine receives emergency use authorization, which is expected in early November.

A Food and Drug Administration panel is expected to meet on Tuesday, Oct. 26 to review COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-11, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to review the proposal Nov. 2-3. This is required before making the vaccinations available to the public.

Pfizer submitted a brief to the FDA Oct. 14 that provided initial data from its ongoing clinical trials of the vaccine in younger children. Data show that the vaccine is 90.7% effective in children ages 5 to 11 who received both shots. Pfizer is proposing that younger children receive one-third the dose that adults and teenagers have received, given three weeks apart.

“Studies in children show that kids mount a really strong and robust antibody response to these vaccines, even at lower doses,” said Tess Barton, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio, whose specialty is pediatric infectious diseases.

“The most common side effects are sore arms, body aches, headache and fever — the same as adults,” she added.

Dr. Barton added that while children generally seem to have milder cases of COVID and are less likely to be hospitalized than adults, it is still important for them to be vaccinated because they can bring the virus home to their families. This is especially important for protecting family members or neighbors who are older or may have diseases with higher risk factors, such as diabetes or cancer.

President Biden’s administration has been working on the logistics for a large-scale rollout of the vaccine if it is approved. Plans call for the vaccine to be available through more than 25,000 sites nationally, such as doctors’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals, community health centers and school- and community-based sites in both urban and rural areas. Parental consent will be needed for their child to receive a vaccination.

UT Health San Antonio is awaiting the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) final recommendation before preparing to provide vaccines to children 5 to 11. Once final ACIP recommendations are received, updates and details about UT Health San Antonio’s administration of vaccines for this age group will be posted on institutional websites and social media outlets.

“At UT Health San Antonio, we are closely monitoring the FDA and CDC’s updates while designing our plans to distribute vaccines to this new age group. We’re also consulting with our pediatric and family medicine specialists to ensure we’re able to answer parents’ questions and provide the best experience for our children,” said Robert Leverence, MD, FACP. Dr. Leverence is the Chief Medical Officer at UT Health Physicians, the clinical practice of UT Health San Antonio.

Vaccine appointments are available for all currently eligible age groups and can be scheduled at UTHealthCare.org/COVID.