Pfizer seeks approval to vaccinate kids under 12 as schools drop mask mandates

Mask mandates are falling along with COVID infections in some parts of the country
By: | October 7, 2021

Pfizer hopes the anxious wait may soon be over for 5- to 11-year-olds—and their parents—hoping to get their COVID vaccines before Christmas.

At the same time, many superintendents and school boards, particularly in the once hard-hit South, are loosening mask requirements as COVID’s delta wave begins to recede in most of the country.

Pfizer and its collaborator, BioNTech, on Thursday officially requested the FDA approve its COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use at lower dosages in children 5 to 11, the companies announced on Twitter.

“With new cases in children in the U.S. continuing to be at a high level, this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against #COVID19,” Pfizer said on Twitter, noting that, from Sept. 16 to 30. there was a 7% percent increase in COVID cases among children since the beginning of the pandemic.

Late last month, the companies announced that their vaccines were safe and effective for kids aged 5 to 11. The companies have also said they expect to have data on vaccinations for children 2-5 years of age and children 6 months to 2 years before the end of 2021.

The FDA had previously scheduled a meeting for Oct. 26 in anticipation of reviewing Pfizer’s request.

“We know from our vast experience with other pediatric vaccines that children are not small adults, and we will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of clinical trial data submitted in support of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine used in a younger pediatric population, which may need a different dosage or formulation from that used in an older pediatric population or adults,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said on the agency’s website.

A ruling from the FDA is expected between Halloween and Thanksgiving, The New York Times reported.

Mask mandates drop along with COVID infections

The Jefferson City School District in Missouri ended its mask mandate on Oct. 1.

“Despite our initial concerns regarding how the delta variant may impact the school environment, we are seeing a comparable number of positive cases and a significantly lower number of close contacts compared to last year at this time,” Superintendent Larry Linthacum wrote in a message to the community. “We also have not seen any instances of close contacts from within the school environment becoming positive.

Alabama’s Hoover City Schools, in the Birmingham suburbs, made masks optional on Thursday based on the district’s own “Face Covering Matrix Procedures,” which follows the seven-day percentage of student positive cases.

“Students choosing to wear a mask will be respected, and students not choosing to wear a mask will be respected,” the district said on its Facebook page.

Also in Alabama, Geneva County Schools stopped requiring face coverings on Oct. 4  and Dothan City Schools dropped its mask mandate on Oct. 1.

“Geneva County Schools will continue to maintain a safe and respectful environment for all students and staff,” Superintendent Becky Birdsong wrote on Facebook. “Anyone who wishes to continue wearing a mask will be encouraged to do so.”

Henry County Schools, Houston County Schools, and Geneva City Schools all canceled mask mandates in early October, according to the Dothan Eagle.

Here are other districts loosening requirements:

  • Cloverleaf Local School District (Ohio) dropped its mandate on Oct. 6, The Gazette reported.
  • Madison County Schools (Mississippi) made masks optional on Oct. 4, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
  • Hartnett County Schools (North Carolina) made mask optional on Oct. 4, despite having more than 400 students in quarantine, ABC News reported
  • Bryan County School (Georgia) district will become mask optional when students return from a fall break on Oct. 13, reported.
  • Ocean Springs School District (Mississippi) made masks optional on Sept. 30, reported.
  • The Farmington School District (Missouri) dropped mask requirements on Sept. 27.

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