RALEIGH — Children ages 5 to 11 can now receive a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, according to a release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

On November 3, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a lower dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children in this age group, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all children 5 to 11 years of age get the vaccine to protect against serious illness and help keep them healthy.

“Children are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus just like everyone else,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “The authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides a safe, tested way to protect them from serious illness and provide healthier, happier experiences in and outside of the classroom.”

During the most recent surge, pediatric cases of COVID-19 rose by about 240% in the United States, demonstrating a need to protect children from the disease. Results from clinical trials that began in March 2021 showed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective to protect children ages 5–11 from COVID-19.

There were no safety concerns or serious side effects noted in the clinical trials. Temporary side effects for kids 5 to 11 are similar to older kids and adults and may include a sore arm, headache and being tired or achy for a day or so.

More than 3,000 children ages 5–11 participated in the trials with volunteers from different races and ethnicities (77% white, 6% African American/Black, 8% Asian, 17% Hispanic/Latinx and 7% multiracial). This is comparable to the number included in many similar clinical trials with children.

Children are given two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Each dose is one-third the amount given to people ages 12 and older. The dose for 5–11 year olds is different from the dose authorized for people ages 12 and older, and children in this age group should not receive the 12 and older dose.

The vaccine is effective and produced a similar immune response in children 5 to 11 as in older kids and adults ages 16–25. As with other routine vaccinations for children, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine underwent a thorough testing and review process by the FDA and an independent scientific committee to ensure it is safe and effective for children.

The Pfizer-BioNTech lower dose COVID-19 vaccine is currently the only one available for children between the ages of 5–11. Parents and guardians with questions about COVID-19 vaccines should talk with their child’s physician.

“Getting school-age kids vaccinated will help keep them safe to play sports, attend events, be with friends and do all of the other things kids love to do that they may currently be missing out on,” Cohen said. “I will be getting my daughters vaccinated. Don’t wait to vaccinate your kids, so they get back to safely being with family and friends, especially as we head into the holiday season.”

Everyone ages 5 and older can receive a free Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, even if they don’t have health insurance and regardless of their immigration status.

North Carolina’s actions are based on recommendations from the CDC.

For more information about how vaccines for children work and where you can find a vaccination appointment nearby, click to MySpot.nc.gov. The North Carolina Vaccine Help Center at (888) 675-4567 can also help you make an appointment. It is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

Area, state vaccination totals

Statewide, approximately 71 percent of the total population have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine with 67 percent of the total population having been fully vaccinated, according to statistics from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as of Monday, Nov. 8.

The organization reports that more than 11.63 million total doses of vaccine have been administered in the state as of Nov. 8, noting that of individuals 65 years of age and older, 93 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 90 percent have received their full allotment. Of individuals 12 and older, 69 percent of the state’s residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, with 65 percent being completely vaccinated.

Locally, NCDHHS data indicates that Avery County has administered a total of 9,466 first doses of vaccine, or 54 percent of Avery County residents who have received their first-dose vaccine as of November 8, with 50 percent of the overall county population, or 8,858 individuals, having received a second-dose vaccination.

Click to https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines for more information on vaccines and vaccine distribution statewide, and to learn more about North Carolina’s vaccine rollout, click to YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov.

Latest local, state and national COVID-19 statistics

As of Monday, Nov. 8, according to available dashboard data from the NCDHHS, the total number of coronavirus cases since March 2020 are 1,463,410 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. NCDHHS reports that 17,765 people have passed away in connection with COVID-19 since March 2020. NCDHHS reported on October 25 that Avery County has 2,722 total positive community cases. The department reports Avery with 33 deaths associated with the virus.

Over the past seven days ending November 7, Toe River Health District reports 25 new positive cases, 28 active positive cases, 34 total contacts and 21 total deaths from Aug. 1 to Oct. 3, 2021. TRHD also reports 18 additional outbreak positives in long-term care that are not included in the aforementioned active positive cases.

According to NCDHHS Dashboard data on November 8, Avery County reports 27.9 cases per 10,000 residents over the previous 14-day period, In comparison, Mitchell County reports 35.4 cases per 10,000 residents, while Yancey County reports 19.9 cases per 10,000 residents. Watauga County reports 19.9 cases per 10,000 residents, while Ashe County reports 16.5 cases per 10,000 residents during the same 14-day period.

“Public health staff is working to complete the investigations and they are contacting close contacts to contain the spread of disease,” TRHD reported. “The Yancey, Mitchell and Avery County health departments will keep the public informed by announcing any additional cases that may arise through our local media partners.”

Mitchell County reported a total of 2,078 positive cases and 21 deaths on Nov. 8 according to NCDHHS, while TRHD reports 36 new positives and 34 active positives from Nov. 1 to 7, with 47 total contacts and seven deaths in the county from Aug. 1 to Oct. 3. NCDHHS reports Yancey County with 2,845 total cases as of Nov. 8 with 32 deaths, while TRHD reports 24 new positives and 22 active positive cases, with 60 total contacts and 12 total deaths from Aug. 1 through Oct. 3.

Nationwide, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine reports more than 250 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with the U.S. totaling 46.4 million cases in the nation as of November 8. Johns Hopkins reports that the United States has experienced 754,474 deaths related to COVID-19 as of Monday, Nov. 8.

The N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health, reporting hospitals and commercial labs report more than 19.38 million completed tests as of Monday, Nov. 8, according to NCDHHS.

The estimate of people presumed to have recovered from the virus as of November 8 is more than 1,454,082 statewide, with the estimate provided each Monday afternoon by NCDHHS. NCDHHS estimates a median time to recovery of 14 days from the date of specimen collection for non-fatal COVID-19 cases who were not hospitalized, or if hospitalization status is unknown. The estimated median recovery time is 28 days from the date of specimen collection for hospitalized non-fatal COVID-19 cases.

In neighboring counties, Watauga County reports 6,061 positive tests, with 46 active cases and 39 deaths among residents, while Ashe County reports 3,335 positive cases, with 17 active cases and 57 deaths as of November 8, according to AppHealthCare data.

In Tennessee, Johnson County reports 3,664 cases with 50 deaths, while Carter County reports 10,595 cases and 221 deaths as of November 8, according to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Caldwell County reports 13,651 positive tests as of Nov. 8 with 216 deaths, while Wilkes County has 10,686 reported cases and 184 deaths, according to NCDHHS Dashboard data.

NCDHHS reports McDowell County with 8,697 cases and 131 deaths. Burke County reports 15,901 cases and 240 deaths attributed to the virus, according to NCDHHS.

Statewide, the top four counties reporting total positive cases are Mecklenburg County (158,689), Wake County (130,704), Guilford County (68,783) and Forsyth County (52,359), the sum of which comprises 27.5 percent of all confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, according to November 8 NCDHHS statistics.

The reported testing numbers could be incomplete due to differences in reporting from health departments and other agencies. Sources include Toe River Health District, AppHealthCare, NCDHHS, Caldwell County Health Department and Tennessee Department of Health.

Updated news and information on the coronavirus pandemic and the state’s response can be found by clicking to covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.

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