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Health department prepares for COVID-19 vaccine approval for children under age 12
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Students at Newton County Elementary School in Decatur,  Aug. 3, 2020
AP/Janine Vincent

Soon Mississippi children ages 5 to 11 may be eligible for the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.

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Dr. Jim Craig says he is getting calls from parents asking when COVID-19 vaccines will be available.  The Deputy Director with The Mississippi Department of Health says the state has already preordered 50,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.  

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says an FDA advisory committee has approved the vaccine. But there’s still some steps ahead before it can be used for that age group. 

“It’s gotta get emergency use authorization by the FDA so they have to sign off on what their committee recommended.  We anticipate that soon.  And then next week we anticipate that CDC is going to meet, discuss the data and determine the eligibility,” Byers said. 

Cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations have declined from more than 5,000 on August 19, to 343 cases Wednesday.   Byers reports there have been 9 pediatric deaths.  He adds they have seen over 70,000 cases overall among children under age 18.  Deputy Director Craig says they’re in the planning stages of distributing the vaccine. 

“And I am part of the White House call every Friday so that we can continue to plan as information comes down for different vaccination opportunities.  There’s a lot of planning that has already occurred so that when this approval comes in we can try to make those vaccination opportunities available as quickly as possible,” Craig said. 

According to Census data, there are about 272,000 children ages 5 to 11 in Mississippi. At least 300 healthcare providers have signed up to obtain the vaccine to administer to children.