A White Plains Hospital physician says the forthcoming vaccination for 5-11 years old is safe and smart.
COVID vaccines for younger children are less than a month away, so I encourage parents to consider all the facts and ultimately make the decision to vaccinate as soon as they are able. As a physician who has gone from the front lines of the pandemic in the Emergency Department to the front lines of the vaccination effort in our community – but most importantly as a parent – I assure you: This vaccine is safe for my children and yours, and vaccinated children will contribute to the safety of us all.
Some 28 million kids ages 5 to 11 will be eligible for the vaccine if the FDA approves Pfizer’s emergency authorization in the coming weeks – and this is very likely. This means the first appointments for vaccinations for elementary school age kids could come as soon as October 26 through Thanksgiving.
This will be a game-changer. The impact this could have on the pandemic is huge.
Pfizer’s request was based on a group of nearly 3,000 study subjects ages 5-11, who received two doses 21 days apart. The dosage was about a third of the dose given to older children and was not only safely tolerated but created a “robust” antibody response very quickly. Notably, there were no cases of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation linked to the mRNA vaccines in teens and young adults. These serious side effects, while they have happened in older children, remain very rare and have never led to any deaths.
As of October 7, more than 6 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The number of new cases among children remains exceptionally high. Yet, only around half of all eligible kids ages 12 and up have had at least one dose of the vaccine. And, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that just one-third of parents are ready to vaccinate their 5-11-year-olds.
That is not enough.
Vaccination is the number one way to protect our children and all children in schools across the U.S., especially those even younger who won’t be eligible for a vaccine just yet. (It is expected that Pfizer will have data for children under 5 later this fall, and it’s possible that doses will be authorized for children ages 2 years and older and 6 months and older sometime early next year.)
If you still aren’t convinced, here are some reasons you should re-consider the vaccine for children of all ages:
•Children who get COVID-19 are more likely than adults to be asymptomatic, so they may unknowingly spread the virus to elderly or immunocompromised friends and relatives.
• While children generally tend to experience milder symptoms, we still do not know what the long-term effects of the virus are for otherwise healthy children or adults of any age.
•The vaccine is highly effective in preventing children from getting COVID-19 and keeping them from becoming seriously ill in the unlikely chance they still do get the virus.
•Getting a vaccine helps to protect our children by creating an antibody response in their body without them having to become infected with the virus.
These vaccines work similarly to other routine childhood immunizations that have been given safely for decades and have essentially eradicated several dangerous diseases. My eldest was vaccinated on her 12th birthday this summer, and we await the day her sisters (ages 7 and 9) will be eligible to join her. I hope you will strongly consider it for your children as well.
Dr. Rafael E. Torres is the Chief Quality Officer at White Plains Hospital.