As Pfizer announces trial results, parents await the opportunity to have their elementary schoolers inoculated. Photos by Hannah Wade

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday morning that their companies’ vaccine is safe and highly effective against the coronavirus for children ages 5 to 11. 

The company plans to apply for approval through the Food and Drug Administration by the end of September and kids above five could have the opportunity to be inoculated before November. 

Parents, like Kate Flory of Columbia, are “counting down the days” until their elementary-aged children are eligible to receive the vaccine. 

“I do worry with her not being vaccinated that she might get exposed or she might, you know, have to quarantine or miss a lot of school,” Flory, a University of South Carolina psychology professor,said. Her youngest daughter, who is 10, attends school in person at a Richland One school that requires masks for students. 

With tens of thousands of students who have already had to quarantine this school year, vaccine eligibility for children couldn’t have come sooner, according to health experts at the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

“I really, really want to see parents taking advantage of getting your child vaccinated to protect them and their classmates and their teachers,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, the director of public health for DHEC.,“Then we could see these very concerning numbers of cases and the number of quarantines we’re seeing in schools decrease.”

Pediatricians have seen an uptick in coronavirus cases in children. As of Sept. 20, there were 32 children hospitalized for the virus, with five being on a ventilator, according to the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative.  

“The community pediatricians are working their fingers to the bone. They’re seeing so many kids in their offices who are testing positive,” said Dr. Rebecca Widener, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Prisma Hospital. 

Despite the more than 800,000 cases in the state, some are still wary of getting vaccinated. Experts, like University of South Carolina Professor Michael Shtutman, say the slim possibility of side effects from the vaccine are far less dangerous than the alternative.

“Modern immunization may cause side effects, but vaccines are much safer than cars, much safer than swimming pools, much safer than electricity. Definitely vaccines are much safer than infectious disease,” Shtutman said. 

Kate Flory, a professor and mother of two children, has already vaccinated one of her children and hopes that the news of the Pfizer trial results will mean she can soon have her 10-year-old daughter vaccinated as well.

Pfizer announced Monday that the vaccine will be safe for younger children. The company was the first to announce its vaccine in December of last year. Photo courtesy of Pfizer.

Rebecca Widener is a pediatrician specialist at Prisma Hospital. She and her colleagues have seen an uptick of childhood COVID cases.