Ask the experts: Kids and COVID-19 vaccines
Children ages 5 to 11 now qualify for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID vaccine, which experts say could be a game changer for combating the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., but many parents are still hesitant to get their child the shot due to widespread misinformation about the risks and benefits of vaccinating kids.
Studies indicate kids’ immune systems are particularly effective at fighting off viruses when it first encounters them, but young kids — though better protected than adults — can still contract and spread coronavirus.
As of November 11, over 6.6 million children had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The AAP says COVID cases among children remain extremely high, and there are growing concerns about another anticipated winter surge and the threat future variants could pose to children and adolescents’ immune systems.
Many kids are asymptomatic and carry a lower risk of dying or requiring intensive care, but those with underlying health conditions may be more at risk for severe illness. Less is known about the rate of kids with less-severe illness or symptoms of long-haul COVID.
The Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration contains one-third of the dose given to adolescents and adults, and young kids receive it with a smaller needle.
Clinical trials conducted with over 3,000 children in this age group reported no serious adverse effects. The most common side effect was minimal pain at the injection site.
What is fueling parents’ hesitancy to get their children vaccinated? What are the most pervasive and problematic myths that need debunking? What is the most up-to-date data about health risk versus reward for kids?
How much protection does a one-third dose provide and for how long? Do kids still need to wear masks and social distance after getting the shot?
Do those who have already had COVID still need to be vaccinated? Will children need boosters or yearly COVID vaccinations?
Where can kids get vaccinated in San Antonio? What can pediatricians and other medical professionals do to increase inoculation rates for this group?
- Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, MD, chief of the pediatric infectious diseases department at the Stanford University School of Medicine and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases
- Dr. Teresa Barton, MD, board-certified specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio
- Dr. Rebecca Huston, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics in the Section of General Pediatrics at The Children's Hospital of San Antonio
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, November 18.