Pediatricians say benefits of COVID-19 vaccine for young kids outweigh any risks

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Pediatricians with Genesis Health System, UnityPoint Health-Trinity, and Community Health Care, Inc. held an online conference Monday, to weigh-in on the CDC’s impending authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The agency is expected to formally authorize the vaccines use for kids ages 5-11 this week.

Local medical professionals agreed, the risks of a young child contracting COVID-19 are worse than any associated with the vaccine or its side effects.

“Many children have died from COVID,” Julie Stecher, a pediatrician with Genesis Health System said. “Despite numbers being less than adults, it’s between the sixth to the eighth leading cause of child death since the pandemic started.”

Sachin Nunnewar, a pediatrician with UnityPoint Health – Trinity, warned pf some complications that can come with COVID-19 in children.

“COVID can cause milder infection in kids,” she said. “Even milder infection has high risk of developing MIS which is Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome. It affects multiple organs of the body including kidneys liver and multi-systems.”

“The benefits of the vaccine definitely outweigh any risks we’ve seen so far.” Stecher added.

Despite the Emergency-use status of the anticipated authorization, the vaccine’s approval process followed standard safety protocol.

“It is historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving the final dose of the vaccine which is why the FDA has required each of the authorized COVID vaccines to be studied for at least two months after final dose,” Swetha Kandula, a pediatrician with Community Health Care, Inc. said.

“The vaccine is over 90 percent effective in preventing any symptomatic infection in that group and 100 percent effective in preventing severe disease in that group that was studied.” Stecher said.

Pediatricians say, aside from keeping kids safe, vaccinating this age group will have mental health and wellness benefits as well.

“When kids are ill, they have to miss school activities, so even if they’re not very ill they’re missing all these things,” Stecher said. “These are crucial to development and mental health.”

As temperatures drop, practicing social distancing outdoors becomes more difficult. That means masking up and vaccination will become the most accessible tools in preventing spread of the virus.

“With the winter coming up, a lot of stuff they can do outdoors is limited, so this is the way to normalcy,” Kandula said.

Currently, children under the age of 12 are the only age group unable to be vaccinated. Health professionals emphasize getting kids ages 5-11 vaccinated will be a major milestone in ending the pandemic.

“Children are important vectors in transmitting the virus even if they’re asymptomatic, so lot of times they’re the ones giving it to others without knowing they’re sick,” Stecher said.

“If we can achieve 80-85 percent vaccine rates in the community, the rates of infection will decline and we can have a sooner return to normalcy.” Kandula said.

All three pediatricians present at today’s conference are parents themselves, and said they will be getting their 5-11 year old children vaccinated as soon as it’s available.

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