WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use authorization Monday to allow the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in teens ages 12 to 15.
A vaccine advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to meet Wednesday to make recommendations about the vaccine.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
Dr. Lisa A. Gwynn, president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said it could be as early as Thursday when shots could become available to children.
She said by the U.S. lowering the age to 12, this will now cover 85 percent of the American population.
Parents are now contemplating whether or not to allow their children to get the shot.
"I completely understand a parent's hesitancy. I'm a parent myself, so I understand that," Gwynn said. "These vaccines are taking advantage of the technology and the experience that we've had with existing vaccinations, so they are deemed safe."
She said even though COVID-19 typically doesn't affect children as harshly as adults, doctors are still concerned that there have been severe illnesses and deaths.
"At the end of the day, this is about protecting your child against the complications from the coronavirus," Gwynn said. "The sooner we can get everybody vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to normalcy."
The doctor said even though infection rates are falling among adults, COVID-19 cases are up in children by more than 20 percent.
The Palm Beach County Health Department revealed last week that 10 percent of its new COVID-19 infections are in the 5- to 14-year-old age group.
"We are going to see more deaths. We are going to see more complications because more kids are going to get infected," Gwynn said.
With the recent drop in hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19, Gwynn said this is evidence that the vaccine works and is our best tool in the fight against the pandemic.
"The benefits far outweigh the risks of the vaccine," Gwynn said. "Being able to be immune against this disease is going to allow kids to not have to miss school."
Diana Castrillon's 13-year-old son is the last one left in his family to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I have a 16-year-old son who just had his [series of shots] completed as well, so we were waiting for this to come through," Castrillon said.
She's already made a vaccine appointment for her younger son in Broward County on Thursday, pending the CDC's approval this week.
Michelle Lucas, a fourth-grade teacher in Broward County, has done the same for her 12-year-old twins.
Lucas said she has seen firsthand the impact the virus has had on education, even if most children are not affected as harshly as adults.
"We've already been quarantined twice this year, so twice two weeks of going home and then my children's class two other times," Lucas said.
Castrillon hopes parents will think about vaccinating their children before the beginning of next school year when districts return to full in-person instruction.
"It's just another level of peace for us as parents," Castrillon said.