COVID vaccine

The Pfizer Vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

Ochsner Health has begun testing the safety of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on young children, the hospital system announced this week.

The new clinical trials started Monday, with the focus centered on children between the ages of 5 and 11.

Children under 12 will be given smaller doses than what are given to adults, and they’ll be monitored for 18 months as part of the clinical trial. Some will be given the actual vaccine, while others will receive a placebo.

Around 70 to 75 children will be able to participate in the trial locally.

Leaders say being able to vaccinate children under the age of 12 is key to reaching herd immunity and doing away with the public health emergency that has been in place since March 2020.

“Kids make up approximately a third of our population,” Dr. William Lenarz, the Pediatrics System Chair at Ochsner, told WVLA NBC Local 33. “You can even argue they circulate more in the community often, more than adults so it’s very important that children be part of the overall push to get herd immunity.”

Last month, the state expanded eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to ages 12 and up, a move that came hours after federal officials approved the vaccine being used for children.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15, declaring the vaccine “safe” and saying it “offers strong protection for younger teens” based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers, according to the Associated Press.

Ochsner Health said the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks of forgoing immunization for your child. Officials pointed to data specific to the 12-15-year-old age group, which “shows 100 [percent] efficacy, robust antibody responses and was well tolerated.”

The Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for children. Vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are restricted to ages 18 and older.

Parental consent is required for anyone under the age of 18 to be vaccinated.

If you or someone you know are interested in participating in COVID-19 research opportunities at Ochsner, please email COVIDVaccine@ochsner.org.

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