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Iowa COVID-19 hospitalizations remain high as young kids may be eligible for Pfizer vaccine as early as next week

As the U.S. races to vaccinate its population, the development of better COVID-19 vaccines has already begun.
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Federal health officials may authorize the Pfizer vaccine for use in children ages 5 to 11 as early as next week.

State health officials are reporting nearly 7,000 new COVID-19 infections have been confirmed for the second week in a row, as the state’s 14-day test positivity rate continues to decline.

On Wednesday, state officials confirmed 6,983 new infections, as its test positivity rate was reported at 8 percent, down from 8.3 percent the previous week.

The number of Iowans hospitalized remains high as 531 Iowans are hospitalized with COVID-19, a drop from last week’s number of 557.

This marks the ninth straight week that state hospitalizations have remained above 500.

An additional 117 Iowans have been confirmed in the past week to have died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s total death count to more than 6,965.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 98 of Iowa's 99 counties have high rates of community transmission.

The remaining county, Grundy County, has a substantial rate of spread.

Just over half of Iowans — 55.2 percent — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Currently, people 12 and older are authorized to receive the approved COVID-19 vaccines.

But that might change as early as next week, as the Pfizer moves closer to getting federal approve to use its vaccine in kids 5 to 11.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics experts said Wednesday that young Iowa children could start getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as next Thursday.

On Tuesday, an FDA advisory panel accepted Pfizer’s data that its vaccine is 90.1 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections in young kids.

The vaccine still need final authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before it can be distributed to kids ages 5 to 11.

"We're working through the standard sequence, but I think by next Thursday, we should expect there should be full clearance to be able to vaccinate," said Mike Brownlee, the chief pharmacy officer at UIHC.

Brownlee said Pfizer is seeking approval for a vaccine that is one-third of the adult dose, which has been shown to reduce side effects in kids.

"When we look at the side effect profile of the vaccine that we got, we were able to see a very strong immune response with the lower dose, but much less side effects," Brownlee said.

Rami Boutros, the director of pediatrics at UIHC, said getting children vaccinated can prevent them from getting seriously ill and spreading the virus to others.

There [are] more complications from the disease, even for younger children. There is still death reported with COVID," he said. "And we know what we have seen with the vaccine, that it prevents severe illness in children."

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter