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Off-label use of the vaccine adds complication to vaccine debate for kids

WASHINGTON — There’s a new push to get an approved COVID-19 vaccine for young kids.

Some lawmakers are questioning when the FDA will grant emergency use of the shot for children under the age of 11.

But there’s another layer complicating the debate.

With the FDA granting full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adults, it opens the door for a medical practice that many of us don’t really talk about.

It’s known as off-label use and it allows pediatricians to give the COVID-19 shot to younger kids, even though it isn’t approved for them yet.

Pediatricians say prescribing an off-label medication to kids isn’t new.

“The FDA may say an antibiotic is good for treating strep throat, and only strep throat, but nothing prevents a physician for prescribing it for something else other than strep throat,” said Dr. Juan Dumois, from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL.

It’s a practice that now applies to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and kids under 12.

But parents may not want to rush out and vaccinate their kids just yet.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is asking doctors to wait for the research from clinical trials.

Dr. Dumois said a major question is the effectiveness of smaller doses.

“If you ask doctors to prescribe the COVID vaccine for children under 12, it may be the wrong dose. It may be more than they need, and they perhaps might have more side effects. We don’t know yet until we see the data,” said Dumois.

National PTA President Anna King has two grandkids under 12 so she understands why some parents may itching for the vaccine sooner.

“We really want to make sure that our kids are safe, that is extremely important for families,” said King.

Top health officials say they hope a vaccine for younger kids is available before the end of the year.

In the meantime, King is encouraging parents ask questions especially at their child’s school.

“You want to know, what the guidelines are? What are they’re doing to make sure that your kids feel safe inside of the school? Ask questions if you don’t know the answer after you do the research” said King.

The FDA is still considering full approval of the vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15.