Drugmaker, Pfizer has asked the US government on Thursday to allow the use of its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 — and if regulators agree, shots could begin within a matter of weeks.

This comes after parents, guardians and pediatricians have been requesting for protection for children who are younger than 12, the age cutoff for the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

With the coronavirus especially its vicious Delta strain, keeping schools open and students in school is a source of worry for parents considering poorly vaccinated areas which could still have children come down with the illness.

What you should know

The company, in a tweet, announced that it had formally filed its application with the Food and Drug Administration. However, it is up to the FDA to decide if there’s enough evidence that the shots are safe for younger children and will work like they do for teens and adults.

On the 26th of October, an independent expert panel will publicly debate the evidence which will inform decisions by the FDA on whether to approve the shots for younger children.

According to Pfizer, research has shown that younger children should get a third of the dose which is currently given to everyone else. It was discovered that after the second dose, 5 -11-year-olds developed virus-fighting antibody levels which were just as strong as antibody levels teens and young adults get from regular-strength shots.

Although kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, deaths have still been recorded in children who contracted the virus and cases in youngsters have been on a steady increase as the extra-contagious delta variant has spread through the country.

Pfizer has said there were no serious side effects after studying the lower dose in 2,268 volunteers ages 5 to 11. According to the drugmaker, the study is not sufficient enough to detect extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation which has been recorded to occur sometimes after the second dose of the regular-strength vaccine, mostly in young men.

Upon authorization of emergency use of the kid-sized doses by the FDA, the next move would involve decision making by the Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on whether to recommend the shots for youngsters.