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Arkansas parents, doctors react after Pfizer delays COVID vaccine for young children

The wait continues for parents who are wanting to get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19 after Pfizer delayed its application to the FDA.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The wait officially continues for those parents who are wanting to get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19.

Pfizer's FDA application to make children under the age of 5 eligible for its COVID vaccine was delayed on Friday, Feb. 11. 

Many are looking forward to the approval like Zara Abbasi, who's a mom of three. Abbasi said getting her older children vaccinated lifted a weight off of her shoulders.

"I felt a sigh of relief, being able to send them with that extra layer of protection," she said. 

But for her youngest, Abbasi said that they're still seeking that relief as the family continues to wait on FDA approval for their child's age group.

"There's always that underlying anxiety that it won't be here fast enough," she said.

Just when Pfizer was ready seek FDA approval for younger children, they instead decided to pull their request to complete more data. 

And while it means that the wait is even longer, it's a decision that gives Abbasi comfort.

"If they're saying let's wait until we can get certain factors figured out, then I want to put hope and trust in that, that they're doing the right thing and that they're waiting for a reason," she said.

The decision to wait for approval was also backed by medical professionals, like Dr. Joel Tumlison.

"I think it makes a lot of sense what the FDA finally decided to do," he said. 

Tumlison, who works as a physician in Outbreak Response for the Arkansas Department of Health, said that Pfizer wanted to wait on the results from their 3-dose vaccine trial to see if the immunity response is stronger.

"If we're thinking that we probably need a 3-dose regimen in the end then why go ahead and approve a 2-dose for now and then come back later and go, 'oh no, actually we need three.' That's a little confusing. I mean, it was even a little confusing to me," he said.

As of right now, Tumlison said the vaccine rates for Arkansas kids aged 5-11 is improving slowly, with 14.39% being fully vaccinated and 21% being partially vaccinated.

Tumlison believes when approved, the vaccination rates for younger children could follow the same trend.

"I would guess it's probably going to be something similar. It would be surprising if they had way better rates than what we've seen so far," he said.

So while the wait continues, Tumlison said this final group getting protected against the virus could have a major impact in our state.

"So from an individual basis, it's important for those young kids and then from a society wide basis," he said.

Dr. Tumlison believes parents and kids may have to wait until April before they see full FDA approval.

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