What undecided parents need to know about the COVID vaccine for kids

Nicole Ellis, the NewsHour's new digital anchor and correspondent, anchors live coverage on our streaming platforms. She recently spoke with parents about the questions they have about the COVID-19 vaccine for children, and joins Judy Woodruff with what she learned from that conversation.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now let's return to questions about younger children getting the COVID vaccine.

    And to do that, I would like to introduce Nicole Ellis, the "NewsHour"s new digital anchor and correspondent. Nicole anchors live coverage on our streaming platforms, and will report for both the broadcast and our Web site.

    She just finished speaking with parents about the questions they have about the vaccine.

    And, Nicole, welcome.

  • Nicole Ellis:

    I'm happy to be here, Judy.

    That's right. I talked to parents all across the country, and, in some cases, their kids too.

    And one of the things they were most concerned about was when they'd be able to take the vaccine, and whether or not it's safe for their kids.

    So, I want to introduce you to one mom in Yorktown Heights, New York. Let's take a look.

  • Child:

    Hi, Nicole.

  • Faryal Khan-Thompson, Mother:

    Hi, Nicole. Thanks for taking our question.

    We are interested in knowing if there have been any developments regarding the COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5 years of age. And, additionally, for kids that are getting the vaccine now, are there any side effects that have been seen or that we can expect for kids?

  • Nicole Ellis:

    Her second question gets to one of the main underlying concerns of most parents, which is, is the vaccine safe? And the short answer is yes.

    But, just like adults, kids are going to have some of the same discomforts. And according to the CDC, that includes soreness at the injection site as you're getting injected, as well as some redness and some swelling. And that includes some potentially nausea or pain or aches and a fever in the days that follow.

    And, finally, all of the research that's gone into creating a vaccine for adults and for children from 5 to 11 will play a role in creating a vaccine for children under 5. So, while we may not have exact dates for when that will happen, we do know that there is a body of work that will propel that pace at which we have a vaccine for children under 5 to happen at a much faster rate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Nicole, you were telling us there were also questions about dosage and about in the case of a child who is just about to turn a year older, and parents trying to decide what to do.

  • Nicole Ellis:

    That's right. A lot of parents want to know how the dosage works and whether or not, if their kid is at the cusp, let's say 11, 11-and-a-half years old, whether or not they should just wait for their child to get the full vaccine dose.

    And I got some help from Dr. Payal Patel, an infectious diseases physician, to understand a little bit more how that works and give parents the right answer. Let's hear what she has to say.

    Dr. Payal Patel, Infectious Diseases Physician, University of Michigan: The reason that the doses come out the way that they do for the younger population is that they are getting as much medicine as you truly need, which is actually less than the adult dose, but is still just as effective.

    So, the earlier the better. Don't wait. All the research has been done to give the right dose to the right age groups.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Nicole, you told us, overall, there is a message for parents who just can't decide whether this is the right thing to do for their child or not.

  • Nicole Ellis:

    That's right, Judy.

    But to answer that big question of whether or not it's worth it, it's important to think through the severity of the risks here. And researchers and physicians like Dr. Patel all point out that the risk of the consequences for parents and for their children if they don't take the vaccine and if they contract COVID far outweigh the side effects or potential risks associated with the vaccine itself.

    So, that's the biggest consideration a lot of parents are making. And everyone that I have spoken to, both in the science world and who are practicing physicians, have pointed out that, while children may not be experiencing the most severe cases, they are still being hospitalized because of this virus.

    And while it may seem like it's not necessarily as risky for kids or that they may just be OK, it's not worth finding out after they have contracted COVID and experiencing those consequences vs. navigating the consequences of taking the vaccine itself, or, rather, the side effects of taking the vaccine itself.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we know how seriously parents take these decisions, of course, about their children's health. So this is all really helpful.

    Nicole Ellis, welcome again. And thank you.

  • Nicole Ellis:

    Thank you for having me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you can watch Nicole's full conversation with Dr. Patel about kids and vaccines on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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