National rise in COVID cases in children: Local experts say don’t panic

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(WETM) – According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is a rise in COVID-19 cases among children across the country. This information comes as the Pfizer vaccine is waiting for approval for children 12 and older.

“As the virus spreads, it is more capable of infecting children. If that’s what’s happening, then you will see more sick children, unfortunately,” Dr. John Moore, professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, said.

“It looks like in the next few months [12-15 year olds will become eligibile],” Dr. Phillip Heavner, Pediatric Systems Chief for Guthrie Health, said. he research done by Pfizer on the vaccine down to 12 years of age was an extension of research that was done in the 16 and up group so they cohorted it into certain ages, and that research was actually ongoing even at the end of 2020

In the most recent efficacy trial, Pfizer found it was 100 percent effective among people 12 years old and older. Now, Moderna and Pfizer are running trials on younger children. Local experts say we may have to wait a bit longer for elementary or middle school aged children to be eligibile.

“It’s going to be longer for younger kids. It really is looking like at the very earliest sometime this fall, but it may even be early next year depending upon how those trials go,” Dr. Heavner added.

The main concern for children who contract the virus is the rare heart condition that can develop.

“In our region, Southern Tier and the northern part of Pennsylvania, those cases or even people being evaluated for those cases has been exceedingly rare,” Dr. Heavner continued.

Fall 2021 could bring a return to normal for children in school due to a potential expansion in vaccine eligibility and more rigorous testing programs developed this school year.

“I think there’s no question that we’re going to be able to open school safely and have more of some of the things around sports and extracurricular activities that we’ve enjoyed in the past with certain precautions,” Dr. Heavner said.

Vaccine hesitancy is a global issue, but Dr. Heavner says these vaccines are safe. As more people become eligible, he encourages parents to consider having their children vaccinated.

“If you want to stomp this virus out, you have to stop the transmission chain early as possible and that means vaccinating as many people as possible,” Dr. Moore added.

“The vaccines are safe and effective for your children and as those age groups get younger you should feel confident about getting the vaccine to protect the children and yourselves,” Dr. Heavner continued. “I’m very optimistic. I think with the combination of vaccines and enhanced testing and good protocols. I really do see that we’re on a path clear of this.”

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