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Update: The COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11

The covid vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old seems to be on the fast track for emergency use authorization by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices by the CDC. As you can imagine I have been asked quite often “what do I think of the vaccine and should kids get it?”

I would like to start off by expressing my sincere wish that the vaccine and the COVID response in general would not have created such a division in our society and we could have open and honest conversations.

But what do I think about the vaccine in this age group? In a nutshell, I think it is safe and effective. If you are interested in getting the vaccine for your child, we will have it and are scheduling kids for the COVID vaccine with vaccine clinics starting early November.

I highly recommend the vaccine for anyone who is high risk or has a family member who is at high risk. The vaccine is effective at decreasing infection with COVID, but perhaps more importantly, it decreases the incidence of hospitalization and death.

I also recommend the vaccine if it means getting your kids back into a normal lifestyle. There are some families who have really restricted their child’s activities and interactions during this pandemic and I believe this vaccine will give those families a sense of protection that will hopefully allow their kids to return to a sense of normalcy.

Where I have a little pause is that I wish they had studied the safety in children in greater depth. The data Pfizer submitted to the FDA was for 2,268 children, while usually there are numerous studies with many more patients included. During the COVID pandemic we unfortunately didn’t have that luxury. The good news is that there will be post-marketing surveillance and the FDA and CDC will keep a watch on the side effects of the vaccine in this age group. Were some unknown side effect to be present, we should know about it shortly. I would suspect there would be over 1 million doses administered within the first month.

There is an argument to be made for the overall public health to vaccinate children to decrease the overall burden of infection. I do not disagree with this argument.

But on the flip side we now have had ample experience with kids getting COVID. The overwhelming majority of kids have a relatively mild course when they have had COVID.  

The case of vaccinating children is not black or white to me so I want to emphasize that it is my opinion that a parent should make the choice of what is best for their child in their particular situation. It is optimal to discuss the issues with your physician and come to a mutual agreement as to what you want to do in your situation.

I still stand by my earlier feelings that our efforts for vaccination should be more focused on adults than on children as adults are the ones who have higher rates of hospitalizations and death. If you are an adult and you are not vaccinated, I highly recommend you discuss vaccination with your physician. Unless there is a compelling reason for an adult to not get the vaccine, I would highly recommend it in general for all adults.

I am vaccinated – I chose to get vaccinated as soon as it was available. My entire extended family is vaccinated as well – I do believe in the vaccine. I want to conclude once again and reiterate my feeling that I think the vaccine is safe and effective. We can certainly discuss further when you are in the office if you have any questions.

As always, wash your hands and stay safe out there!

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