MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Possible protection from COVID-19 could be on the horizon for younger children after a summer that saw pediatric cases increasing in Memphis and nationwide.

Pfizer says a medical trial shows its coronavirus vaccine is safe for children as young as 5 years old, which could be a big step toward making the vaccine available to that age group. It comes at a time when COVID-19 cases in children have been skyrocketing. 

“I think this incredibly important to protect those younger school-age children and to protect the rest of their families,” said Dr. Sandy Arnold, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and a professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “We’ve all been living through this Delta variant and all the infections in children, and this has had a tremendous effect on children in this area and around the country.”
           
Arnold said there are promising results in a trial looking at the effectiveness and safety of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

“I think that this vaccine being made available for children will provide great relief to parents who are concerned about sending their children to school in a setting where there is disease transmission,” Arnold said.           

The vaccine still faces FDA approval, and it could be weeks or months before parents can get their child vaccinated.

Since the start of the pandemic Le Bonheur has seen at least three pediatric deaths, and at one point the hospital peaked with 33 COVID patients in the hospital to just two patients last week.

But will the vaccines be safe for children? Dr. Arnold says the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of getting the virus.

“I just hope given enough time that people will see that these vaccines are safe. They’re much safer than taking a chance of letting their child get the virus. We need layered protections. We need masks. We need vaccines. we need all these things to get this virus under control,” Arnold said.