Teachers and parents in East Lansing are reacting to an emergency request by Pfizer and BioNTech for the FDA to authorize the use of the COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5-11. Currently, the vaccine is not available to children under 12.
The White House on Oct. 20 announced plans to distribute vaccines to 28 million children aged 5 to 11 and said there are enough doses to vaccinate every child in that group.
According to the East Lansing Public Schools District COVID-19 dashboard, the number of cumulative COVID-19 cases at the elementary level was fewer than cumulative cases in high schools and middle schools during the 2020-2021 school yea
However, this school year, cumulative cases of elementary students have already surpassed high school and middle school cases.
Tina Crawford, a physical education teacher at Green Elementary, said, “We are seeing cases but not in high numbers …yet.”
Kristin Bee, whose children attend East Lansing Public Schools, is in favor of the Pfizer vaccine becoming available to her children.
“I am familiar with the vaccine development and testing process and, as a believer in science, I rely upon the experts and my child’s pediatrician, who has recommended the vaccine,” said Bee.
She said, “We intend to vaccinate our 10-year-old and 5-year-old at the earliest opportunity, as we have done with other vaccines.”
Bee recognizes the risk her children face without the vaccine, even though other protective measures are in place.
Bee said, “We have seen the statistics on outcomes for unvaccinated versus vaccinated adults. I will feel a sense of relief when our children are vaccinated when sending them to school. Although I believe masks and social distancing work, the vaccine is an additional protection that can ensure, even if the child gets COVID, they likely will not experience significant sickness, long-term impacts, or have a significant risk of death.”
Karin Polischuk, whose child attends Glencairn Elementary School, said she is excited for the vaccine to be approved for children. She also has a child at MacDonald Middle School who is 11, under the age of vaccine eligibility.
“The second the vaccine is approved for my children’s age group I will pull them out of school and take them to the nearest pharmacy,” said Polischuk.
Polischuk has spoken to a few medical professionals who attest to the safety of the vaccine for young children.
“I talked to a pediatrician friend if it would be wise to enroll my children in a vaccine trial and she said ‘Absolutely,’” said Polischuk. “I am fortunate enough to know many doctors and they all say the same. I’ve spoken to a friend who is an infectious disease specialist who takes time to very closely read all of the vaccine data and he says it is remarkably safe and effective.”
Polischuk said, “I do think the availability of the vaccine will make my children’s school safer. We probably have pretty high vaccination rates in East Lansing, but Ingham County is still at only 53% of 12-15-year-olds vaccinated. There have been many cases in both my children’s schools and in their classes.”
Polischuk said, “I am blessed with two healthy children but believe we have a responsibility to protect our community. I would hope many other parents would do the same.”