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‘We need to get everybody immunized’: El Paso pediatrician weighs in on when children could possibly get vaccinated

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) — The White House said last week high school students could receive Covid-19 vaccines this fall, though elementary students may not be able to receive vaccines until early 2022. 

The FDA has already authorized Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older. Moderna’s has been authorized for people who are 18 and older. 

Both companies are now gearing up for trials for school-age children. Pfizer told ABC News that data for 12 to 15-year-olds could be available in the first half of this year, while Moderna said its data could be available around mid-year. 

A local pediatric expert said children will ultimately play a big role in the push for herd immunity. Dr. Glenn Fennelly, Chair of Pediatrics at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, said estimates show at least 70% of the U.S. population would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. 2010 Census numbers show those under the age of 18 make up just under a quarter of the U.S. population.

Dr. Fennelly said once vaccines become widely available for children, new questions will arise about how routine the vaccines should become. 

"Should this be part of routine immunization? If Moderna can show safety and effectiveness down to six months of age, why not start then the way we do with the seasonal flu vaccine?” he said. “In time, this will really be what makes this most effective. Should it be required? Should it be required for school entry? I think those debates are going to begin emerging very soon.”

Dr. Fennelly said the trials will test the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness among children, as well as what dose is most appropriate. He said if the results of these trials are positive, it should also help reassure families who are hesitant to vaccinate their children. 

“If one in three of us refuse this vaccine for whatever reason, we're not going to achieve herd immunity,” he said. “It’s very, very important. We need to get everybody immunized in order to protect the most vulnerable, who in certain instances may not respond well enough against the vaccine to be protected.” 

Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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