By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBS Miami) – The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has officially been authorized for children ages 5-11. This comes after a sign-off by the CDC Tuesday night.

After a unanimous vote from CDC advisers to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for children, it was made official a few hours later.

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It was welcome news to Dr. Tina Carroll-Scott, Medical Director of the South Miami Children’s Clinic.

“We’ve seen children suffer significantly throughout this pandemic with the loss of in-person schooling,” she said. “They still contribute to the spread of this virus, both in school and at home, and we are also seeing long COVID with kids, as well, and I’m seeing that in my own practice.”

The study of about 2,300 children showed the vaccine to be about 91% effective at preventing COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine for children of this age group is 1/3 of the dose of the adult one and will still be given in two parts.

“Kids are not spared from the harmful effects of COVID-19, and we saw that definitely during this last Delta surge, where the rates of infection in that age group actually dramatically increased,” explained Dr. Carroll-Scott.

According to the latest CDC data, in children ages 5-11 across the U.S. there were 8,300 COVID hospitalizations and 172 deaths.

As a mother herself, Dr. Carroll-Scott said she understands parents may have questions, especially about long-term side effects. She wants them to know this vaccine was not rushed and the technology has been around for decades.

“What I tell parents is, in the history of vaccines, serious side effects only occur within probably the first two months of the rollout, and we’ve had more than 12 months a vaccine follow-up data at this point in time,” she said.

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One of the common questions Dr. Carroll-Scott receives is about infertility in girls, after she said misinformation circulated social media. She said those claims of causing infertility have been proven false.

“As of now, we’ve had thousands of women get vaccinated and become pregnant,” she said.

Heart inflammation, or myocarditis, is another concern of parents, and she said, while no children of this age group experienced that in the trials, mild cases have happened in teenage boys and young men.

The CDC confirmed 877 cases in people ages 30 or younger. It can also occur as a result of coronavirus.

“Myocarditis is still a rare occurrence, and the risk is much lower than that of getting natural infection of COVID,” Carroll-Scott explained.

While children have a lower chance of getting COVID-19, Carroll-Scott said their vaccination is still important to keep overall cases down and return to normal.

“As long as we still have a large group of people unvaccinated, and I’m talking specifically about children under the age of 12, it’s just going to give this virus so many more opportunities to infect a host, to change, and then we’re going to end up with the next variant,” she said.

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The CDC said vaccine distribution started this week and will ramp up to full capacity starting next week.

Karli Barnett