SALT LAKE CITY — With Monday's news that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for emergency use by children as young as 12 years old, Utah medical leaders are urging parents to have their children vaccinated as soon as possible.
"This is really a great step forward in the fight against the pandemic. It's great news for children, I think every pediatrician in the state is incredibly happy to hear it," said Dr. Andrew Pavia of University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
READ: Cox to meet with Biden on COVID-19 vaccine efforts
Utah's youth population is one of the highest in the country, with nearly 30 percent of residents under the age of 18.
Since the pandemic began, only one child has died of COVID-related illness in Utah. But while the virus is not perceived to be as harmful to children as it is to adults, the vaccine will prevent Utah's younger residents from passing the coronavirus to their parents, family or others they interact with in the community.
The FDA has given the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine emergency use approval for children as young as 12 years old. (https://t.co/rXIWz8CGoq)
Parents, will you be taking your kids to get vaccinated?
— FOX 13 News Utah (@fox13) May 11, 2021
"This may mark a real turning point in our ability to get towards a high level of protection, and drive cases down," said Pavia.
Pavia says parents should speak to their family doctors and get all their questions answered. But after months of data, he added that the vaccines are the proper way to go to truly end the pandemic.
"I can say with a lot of confidence, that this really is safe and effective and it's going to make a big difference."
READ: Moderna claims COVID-19 vaccine is 96% effective in teens
Parents are being advised to plan ahead to get their children vaccinated. Schools require other vaccinations ahead of the academic year, and teens cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine on the same day they receive others.
Utah's daily case counts have plateaued over the last 6-7 weeks, but Previa believes today's announcement could have a wide-ranging, positive effect.
"This can be really important for getting the amount of vaccination into the community up to a level to really break the back of this pandemic."
Canada approved vaccine use for children last week, while the European Union is expected to give the same approval within the next few days.