Expert: The ‘Risks Don't Outweigh the Benefits’ to Getting Children Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Hannah Fish, PharmD, National Community Pharmacists Association associate director of Strategic Initiatives, discusses the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout following the FDA expanding the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine EUA to include children ages 12 and older.

Pharmacy Times® interviewed Hannah Fish, PharmD, associate director of Strategic Initiatives at National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), on the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout following the FDA updating the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA) to be expanded to include children ages 12 years and older.

NCPA partnered with the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, a coalition of over 200 patient, provider, and public health organizations, to help to promote the update to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine EUA, as well as to further advance public education and equity around COVID-19 vaccines more broadly.

During the discussion, Fish detailed the process for pharmacies that are shifting to allow this expanded age group to be signed up for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the importance of COVID-19 vaccination within this younger age group, and some of the challenges that may arise in the rollout of vaccinations for this new age group.

Fish explained that although the eligibility expansion of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is really exciting news and a great opportunity for both children and parents, there's going to be a flood of questions as parents seek answers to alleviate any concerns they may have regarding their children’s safety.

“I think it's the same concerns that we've been hearing the entire time. It’s concerns about the development of the vaccine being too fast,” Fish said. “The numbers might not have been as large as they would hope to study a vaccine with, but we know that the process has been rigorous. They enrolled as many people as they could to try to study this vaccine, and the risks definitely don't outweigh the benefits of having children vaccinated.”

Fish noted that the challenges in the rollout for this age group will most likely be ensuring parents understand why the vaccine should be given to their children and helping children understand the benefits of being vaccinated as well.

“I think we're going to keep combating that hesitancy that we've heard of, and really, as pharmacists, we're right there to answer those questions. We have the ability to go out and meet these patients where they are, both parents and the kids,” Fish said. “Pharmacists are in the community and ready to answer those questions.”

The discussion also included whether schools may require COVID-19 vaccinations in order for children in the newly eligible age group to return to in-person schooling in the fall, what is on the horizon in the ongoing rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in the country, and what the role of the pharmacist is in vaccinating this new age group against COVID-19.