As of late October, there have been nearly 6.4 million reported COVID-19 cases among children.

Good news! Parents and pediatricians have been anxiously waiting for federal health officials to give final approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5-11. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced authorized use of the vaccine on October 29th. The FDA’s decision impacts about 28 million children in the United States.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends COVID-19 vaccinations for children 5 years of age and older who do not have contraindications.

According to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children who have had COVID-19 should nevertheless receive the vaccine.

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s important that our community does everything in our power to protect our children. That begins with providing parents with accurate information about the vaccine. Colleen Cuningham, MD — who serves as Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UC Irvine and Senior Vice President and Pediatrician-in-Chief for CHOC — has written a UCI Health blog post which addresses the question: “Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for kids?” (Click here to read Dr. Cunningham’s post.)

For months, Tustin Unified School District (TUSD) has been working to educate parents about the vaccine and offer school campus COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. The Irvine Unified School District should quickly follow the lead of TUSD and provide on-campus testing and vaccination sites.

If you still have questions about the safety of the vaccine and whether it is right for your child, I encourage you to talk to your pediatrician and your child’s school nurse.

A final reminder: With reports of waning immunity, unvaccinated individuals, the emergence of new variants, flu season, and the upcoming holidays, we must continue to follow all California State guidelines — including masking.

Phyllis Agran, MD, MPH