By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – About 18 million children in the United States are still ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The long-awaited shot for children under age five could be coming soon.

Pfizer announced Monday three smaller doses of its vaccine were effective for children ages 6 months to 5 years old.

Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children knows the decision to vaccinate children doesn’t come easy for parents.

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“The reason why this vaccine took longer is because they wanted to make sure that it was done right, without a lot of side effects, and with good efficacy,” said Laura-Anne Cleveland, Associate Chief Nursing Officer. “The current study there is very positive.”

Cleveland has two children of her own who are COVID-19 positive, but she says they’re feeling fine. They were both old enough to get vaccinated. Cleveland said the introduction of youth vaccinations has taken a great deal of stress off hospital capacity, and hospital staff.

“We don’t have ICU patients who are COVID positive. That’s huge. That was not the case even six months ago, nine months ago. From the staff perspective, it has definitely helped us feel more comfortable,” said Cleveland.

Pfizer reports its three dose vaccine was 80% effective at preventing illness for children ages 6 months to 5 years old.

Many parents and older siblings have been conscious of the younger ones in their homes who can’t get vaccinated. Cleveland says the approval of this vaccine would impact entire families.

“Families are desperate to get their younger kids vaccinated so that they don’t affect the immunocompromised children. We are definitely getting lots of questions. We have physicians here that are counting down the days till they can hopefully get one for their younger children,” said Cleveland.

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Henry Schloss was able to get his son, Hank, vaccinated earlier this year. Hank was 6 years old, barely making the age requirement.

“As soon as the shots were available for the kids, we took him the first day to get the shots,” said Henry Schloss. “My wife and I were so happy to get the kids back in school so they could be around their friends again. It really loosened things up for us.”

Allie and Chase Nowak shielded their son from COVID his whole life. Their baby boy was born in August 2020.

“He will be starting daycare in the next month. [The vaccine] is definitely something we’re considering, given the fact that he’s going to have greater exposure,” said Nowak.

The Food and Drug Administration will meet in June to review data and make a recommendation on whether the vaccine should receive authorization.

“I know that the risks of severe infections for kiddos is less than adults and especially the elderly, but as new parents, we also want to do what’s best for him,” said Nowak.

Tori Mason