Parents divided over decision to vaccinate children
The FOX Medical team spoke to a health official to answer common parental questions about childhood vaccines.
ATLANTIA – Nearly one million children ages 5 to 11 have already had their first COVID-19 shot.
dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says this is a big moment for families.
“First of all, I think we are so grateful that we have a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11,” says Savio Beers.
“And I understand parents will have questions.”
So dr. Beers agreed to answer some of the common questions parents now ask pediatricians.
“One of the most common questions we get is, ‘Why should I have my child vaccinated against COVID?’ Beers says: “And I remind families that while children are less at risk for COVID than adults, they can still get very sick. And if so, COVID is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in children this year. So that’s not unimportant.”
The pandemic vaccines were developed in record time, which is worrying some parents.
“The other question (we get) is, ‘Was this rushed? Has it gone too fast?” Dr. Beers says. “And I remind parents or try to tell them that the science behind these vaccines has been evolving for decades. And the vaccine approval process went through the exact same steps as any vaccine.”
Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine is a lower-dose injection, with children receiving one-third the dose that teens and adults age 12 and older receive.
So, what kind of side effects should parents expect in younger children?
“The most common side effects you will see after the vaccine are some of the side effects you see with all vaccines,” says Dr. Beers. “So, sore arm, aches, fatigue, maybe a slight fever. Those things usually go away in a few days.”
There have also been rare reports of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, in teens and adults associated with the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna messenger RNA vaccines.
“I think it’s really important for parents to know,” Beers says. “This is a very rare association with the vaccines approved for children and adolescents.”
Myocarditis is usually caused by a viral infection, but it can also be caused by bacteria, fungi, or a parasite.
“It has been associated with the vaccine that is most common in young men and usually after the second injection,” he says. “It can be very mild, and it can be very severe. But where we see it after the vaccine, it’s almost always very mild, and kids do that, people get better pretty quickly after that. We take it very seriously, but people will get better.”
Beers says a COVID-19 infection can also cause myocarditis.
“That happens much more often and can be much more serious,” she says.
So far, says Dr. Beers, they have no reports of myocarditis in younger children who have received the pediatric vaccine.
“But it’s a very rare side effect,” she says. “So we’re continuing to monitor that very closely. But to date, we haven’t seen any cases of myocarditis in children 5 to 11 years post-vaccine.”
She recommends that your child be vaccinated, even if he or she has already had the virus.
“There are a number of reasons for this,” she says. “First, we know it’s safe to do. It’s very safe to give the vaccine after you’ve had a COVID infection. The other thing, it’s better protection. What we know about the immunity that comes after you’re infected with COVID is that it’s just not predictable.”
The immunity the body develops after the vaccine, says Dr. Beers, is longer lasting and more predictable.
“So the vaccine can ensure that you are really protected against a serious disease,” she says.
If you have any questions, Beers recommends that you contact your child’s pediatrician or general practitioner.
She also recommends the AAP’s website for parents, healthychildren.org and getvaccineanswers.org, a website created by the Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative with the involvement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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