Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for kids? Local schools, parents react to Pfizer study

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The announcement came Wednesday morning from Pfizer and BioNTech that a study shows their COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective against the virus in children ages 12 to 15.

In the coming weeks, Pfizer plans to ask the FDA to allow emergency use of the shots starting at age 12 before the fall.

For many parents in Delaware Valley, it's welcomed news as many hope for vaccinations before the start of the next school year.

"I was thrilled beyond belief. Not the least of which because my wife and I have two 15-year-old kids at home," said Dr. Jon Cooper from the Colonial School District in Delaware.

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In the coming weeks, Pfizer plans to ask the FDA to allow emergency use of the shots starting at age 12 before the fall.

Cooper is the Supervisor of Behavioral Health and the district's COVID-19 point person.

"We're right now, in the process of building our programming for the fall, and we know we're going to have to have a range of options. We hope what this will mean is that more parents will be willing to send their children in-person for the fall," Cooper explained.

Right now, all 15 district schools have in-person learning options, with their elementary and middle schools operating five days a week.

Roughly 60% of district families have remained remote.

"So, the idea that we're starting to get a sense now that this might be available, I think it's going to help people formulate their plans, especially parents," Cooper added.

A poll from WebMD earlier this month found that 53% of parents with children between the ages of 12 and 16 plan to get their teens and pre-teens vaccinated within a year of approval for the age group, with fewer than one in five saying they would not.

We spoke to local parents about their plans.

"I'm not comfortable with her taking it because to me, it's not been tested long enough," said Elaine Ravenell of Northeast Philadelphia, referring to her 14-year-old, who attends a Philadelphia charter school.

Josh Van Naarden of Bala Cynwyd has children in the Lower Merion School District.

"In order to keep the community safe and keep our kids safe, you have to go with the science," said Van Naarden.

In separate statements to Action News, the Downingtown and Abington School Districts' reaction to the Pfizer announcement was one of optimism and awaiting direction.

A spokesperson for Downingtown said in part the news is promising "and an important step toward protecting the health and safety of our school community."

Meanwhile, an Abington School District spokesperson said they "will continue to follow the guidance provided Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Montgomery County Office of Public Health.

But for some parents, the shots can get into arms soon enough.

"You know weigh the pros and cons, and I think the pros and I think the pros would far outweigh my concerns with the vaccine," said West Philadelphia parent Devonya Dunn.

The study will continue to track the participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.

Pfizer's findings still need to be peer-reviewed.
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