By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Pfizer’s latest emergency authorization allows children 12 and older to receive its COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated people can safely remove their masks in most places, but people 11 and younger won’t have access to a vaccine for months.

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Dr. Joshua Williams, a pediatrician at Denver Health, says children under 12 should continue to follow best health practices like masks and social distancing. While their symptoms aren’t severe, kids can still infect others.

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“I think public health guidelines are going to continue to be important because we’re not going to be able to know who’s vaccinated and who’s not,” said Williams. “We need to still be really careful about children contracting COVID.”

While they’re less impacted by symptoms, kids can still spread the virus. In fact, people under 18 were the source of much of the transmission our state has seen in the last few months. Williams says unvaccinated individuals can still pose a threat to immunocompromised people who’ve gotten the vaccine.

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“People who are on chemotherapy or have immune suppressant medications, they’re more likely to have a less robust response to the vaccine. It’s possible to be vaccinated and to get COVID, even while the vaccines are highly effective,” said Williams.

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No health order can dictate what happens at home. Protecting unvaccinated youth, and the people they come in contact with, will be up to families. Williams says it’s going to be an individual risk decision that families are going to make on their own.

“For kids who are going to summer camps or will be in close proximity with other kids, all of whom are unvaccinated, it’s unfortunate that they have to continue using masks and social distancing in order to do those activities,” said Williams. “Depending on who’s vaccinated and who’s at the event people are going to, it still makes sense for kids to be wearing masks, especially when indoors or doing other high risk activities.”

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The three vaccine companies are still studying the safety and effectiveness of their shots in children, even those as young as 6 months old. Pfizer says it won’t be ready to ask for FDA approval for younger kids until September.

Tori Mason