The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use among children aged five to 11 on October 29.
The first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved was the Pfizer vaccine, for which the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for those aged 16 years and older on December 11, 2020. The FDA later extended it to include those aged 12 to 15 on May 20, 2021.
In the city of Berkeley, feelings towards the vaccine are reflected in the high vaccination rates stated on its website, which say 87 percent of residents ages 12 to 75 and older are fully vaccinated, while residents aged 12 to 17 have a vaccination rate of 99 percent. Because many younger children are still in the process of receiving the vaccine, information about vaccination rates for this age group is not yet available. That being said, the vaccine appears to remain well-received in Berkeley.
“I feel fortunate that we live in a place where most people trust scientists and research, and that Berkeley is so highly vaccinated,” said Jamie Epstein, a Berkeley mother of two kids aged six and eight. “I appreciate that it’s a hard decision for parents to make for younger kids … but most parents that I know have been very eager and ready to get their kids vaccinated,” Epstein said.
Megan Mcquaid, a Berkeley resident with two kids — one of whom is in the newly-eligible age group — agreed. “I think [the vaccine] will reduce the chance of transmission when the kids are together, which then protects the adults who are more at risk from getting sick,” Mcquaid said. “Also with the Delta variant, more kids are getting sick as well, so it’s also protecting them. I think it just allows for more freedom and less scariness around being social and human interaction, which is so important,” Mcquaid concluded.
For many young students, distance learning and the changed school environment proved difficult, with a lack of access to learning spaces and emotional connections hindering growth.
“I’ve been at Malcolm X for 17 years, and I’ve taught all kinds of grades, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a disparity between kids,” said Jessica Arroyo, a second grade teacher at Malcolm X Elementary School. “We have kids all across the board because of the pandemic and kids’ different access to resources during distance learning,” Arroyo added.
The approval of the vaccine could make schools a safer space for students and staff and allow young students to get back on track. Many also hope that access to the vaccine will further protect young kids and their families, allowing life to return closer to normal.
“I’m really happy [about the vaccine] because then we can do all of the normal stuff, which I really miss. … Once I get the second shot, maybe I won’t have to wear the mask as much, and once everybody gets the vaccine at school, my teacher said we might be able to go on field trips,” said Niah Mcquaid, a fourth grader at Ruth Acty Elementary School.
The aim of approving the vaccine for young kids is to provide families with an extra layer of protection for themselves and their children. Getting children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated thus has serious implications on vaccination rates in the rest of the country.
“I was scared if something went wrong, but … I was also excited at the same time because if I get both shots, then a lot of stuff could change,” said Niah Mcquaid.