FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Younger children took a big step Monday towards having a COVID vaccine available for them.
Pfizer announced testing showed its vaccine is safe and effective for children between the ages of five and 11.
It's cause for relief for a lot of parents, but it won't mean anything for a little while longer.
Pfizer still needs to submit the data and get emergency authorization from the FDA.
Hundreds of COVID patients came through Valley Children's Hospital over the last few weeks as the Delta variant drastically drove up numbers from what doctors saw before July.
RELATED: Pfizer says COVID vaccine safe, effective for kids ages 5 to 11
Fresno County has confirmed more than 25,000 COVID cases in children since the start of the pandemic - more than 4,000 of them just last month and thousands more this month.
The biggest increase has come among kids between the ages of 5 and 11.
So Dr. Nael Mhaissen says opening up vaccinations to that age group could be a game-changer.
"I think the timing is actually perfect because we're continuing to see a rise in cases of COVID-19 in children," said the pediatric infectious diseases specialist. "This particular surge of COVID-19 is affecting children moreso than any other age group."
More than 2,000 kids between 5 and 11 got the Pfizer vaccine at one-third the dosage given to adults.
The company said they built up antibodies without significant safety risks. But it hasn't released its data publicly yet, so Dr. Mhaissen is cautiously optimistic.
"If everything goes smoothly like it did for the authorization for the prior age groups, I think we'll be looking at getting the vaccine ready for children for that age group hopefully in the next month or so," he said.
Dr. Mhaissen said it'll be exciting to give younger kids an extra layer of protection against severe disease and hospitalization, especially with school back in person.
Local school districts have a close eye on the approval, too.
Clovis Unified spokesperson Kelly Avants told Action News the district will watch to see the response from Sacramento.
They know some parents are waiting eagerly, and local clinics - including UCSF's Mobile HEAL unit - are geared up.
"We'll be vaccinating the second it's cleared by the state and the county," said Dr. Kenny Banh, who heads up Mobile HEAL, which is doing free vaccinations and COVID testing now at the UC Merced site in Fresno, across from Fashion Fair Mall. "We're ready to go."
Pfizer is also testing its vaccine on even younger kids, all the way down to six months old.
Those studies are a month or two behind this one, but if there are no snags, kids 5 to 11 could be eligible in October and younger kids by the end of the year.
Valley doctors, parents eagerly await Pfizer authorization for kids 5-11
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