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Following the approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 for children between the ages of 5-11, some parents have been eagerly lining up to get their children protected after months of intermittent lockdowns and worry. So far, more than 900,000 newly eligible children were vaccinated against COVID-19 in the days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the shot, according to data from the White House COVID-19 Task Force briefing this week.
But while three out of 10 parents in a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation in late September said they were eager to get their child vaccinated as soon as possible, some parents are worried about getting their kids the shot, with the majority of parents saying they were not ready to make that choice yet.
READ MORE: The COVID-19 vaccine and kids. Your questions answered
Watch the conversation in the live player above
PBS NewsHour’s Nicole Ellis spoke with Dr. Payal Patel of the Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation at the University of Michigan and Laura Santhanam the PBS NewsHour’s health reporter and polling producer during a live conversation on Nov. 12 to discuss children and the COVID-19 vaccine.
Below are highlights from the live discussion.
Among the top concerns that some parents voiced during the conversation were whether there have been significant known side effects to the COVID vaccine for children.
As more parents consider vaccination for their children, some are worried about cases of myocarditis–an inflammation of the heart–related to COVID-19 and some vaccines.
Patel said that when it came to the risk of myocarditis among children who received the vaccine, the result of the Pfizer trials was “super reassuring.”
“One statistic that I think unfortunately has not gotten enough press is that in this vaccine trial that happened for this age group, between 5 and 11.There was not a case of myocarditis,” Patel said.
She added that there had been some cases of myocarditis in young adults who received a vaccine, including among adolescent boys, however the risk was small compared to the risk of contracting COVID-19 alone.
“When you compare getting COVID, you have a 16 times higher chance of getting …heart inflammation, myocarditis, being unvaccinated compared to being vaccinated,” Patel said.
After the decision has been made to vaccinate a child, what should a caregiver do if their child is scared of needles?
For some kids, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is incentive enough to roll up their sleeves and get their shot. But for many others facing a needle, some kids aren’t going to react any differently than to the prospect of other childhood vaccinations–with a lot of tears. But there are some creative ways to get kids to feel more at ease about getting a shot.
For Santhanam, who just took her daughter to receive her first COVID vaccine, she made it clear that the shot is one way to get closer to seeing their grandparents, who live in another country, whom they have not seen in the past two years.
“This [the shot] is something that may feel uncomfortable… but it allows your body to defend yourself against this virus that has hurt so many people and disrupted everything and it will make it so that we can go back and do some of the things we used to love to do,” Santhanam recalled telling her daughter.
Parents who are getting their kids vaccinated also worry about their level of protection going into the holiday season. With Thanksgiving imminent, some parents with eligible children will only have time to schedule the first dose of vaccine instead of the full, two-dose course. Patel said those parents should take precautions.
“In general, children have a pretty decent immunity system. And so that’s why we’ve been seeing really good numbers coming out of these vaccine trials for children,” Patel said.
She said that while a person was not fully protected until they had both doses of a two-dose vaccine, “one is better than nothing.” The best approach in the meantime, Patel said, is ensuring that families should get vaccinated as soon as possible, but if that was not possible, then masking and distancing as much as possible “may make sense.”
Now that children between the ages of five and 11 have become eligible for their first COVID vaccine, attention now turns to those under the age of five.
Patel said that research has already been underway to test COVID-19 vaccines for very young children and the first availability could come as soon as early 2022.
“Of course we want to be very, very careful with young kids. And it’s very, very important to protect them from infectious diseases,” Patel said, noting the rollout could happen as quickly as it did for the 5-11 age group.
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