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DHEC calls Pfizer news ‘encouraging’ but says there’s still work to do

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 7:48 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Pfizer announced on Monday trial results for its COVID-19 vaccine show it’s safe and effective for those ages 5 to 11.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control called the Pfizer announcement “encouraging,” but in a statement said the FDA review process is still needed.

DHEC is aware of Pfizer’s announcement that Phase 2 of 3 of its COVID-19 vaccine trial for ages 5-11 has shown the vaccine to be safe and effective in this age group. This is encouraging as we continue our efforts to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

That said, DHEC has not seen the clinical trial data and therefore cannot comment further since we are still very early in the approval process. Pfizer will still need to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the vaccine in this age group from the FDA, and once the FDA issues the EUA, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will provide clinical guidelines for use before these younger ages can begin receiving vaccinations. DHEC supports these and other efforts to offer safe, effective COVID-19 vaccinations to more people. We look forward to the continued scientific review of vaccines for our younger school-aged children.

In the meantime, we strongly encourage everyone ages 12 and up to get vaccinated as soon as possible. COVID-19 vaccines have some of the highest efficacy rates we’ve ever seen among vaccines and are saving lives daily. Vaccinations can and will help us end this pandemic.

DHEC data shows more than 2,700,000 Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses have gone to South Carolinians, and if granted authorization, the vaccine could protect more.

Leaders with Prisma Health and MUSC celebrated the news in separate calls with journalists today.

Prisma Health Pediatric Infectious Disease physician Dr. Anna-Kathryn Rye Burch pointed to the potential benefits for the children, but also the impact it could have on the number of quarantined students.

“Once you reach that two weeks after the second dose, you’re vaccinated. So if your child is exposed to COVID at school, guess what? They don’t have to quarantine. They get to stay in school as long as they have no symptoms,” she said.

MUSC Director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Division Dr. Allison Eckard testified to the strain the Delta variant has put on pediatric hospitals.

“We have been absolutely overwhelmed with the number of COVID admissions over the last couple of months,” she said.

The South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative published data on Monday stating 32 children statewide are hospitalized with the virus, with 5 on ventilators.

Both Eckard and Rye Burch said there is the possibility the FDA gives the vaccine emergency authorization in the fall.

Several Midlands school districts held vaccine clinics for their students last spring.

Kershaw County School District Nurse Elizabeth Starling said conversations have already begun about offering clinics for younger students if the vaccine is authorized.

“We have definitely talked about this, looking forward to hopefully this getting approved for this age group, knowing it will benefit our community,” she said.

WIS reached out to the State Department of Education about the potential impact of the Pfizer news. A spokesperson for the department deferred to DHEC.

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