Preparing to vaccinate: What to know before your child rolls up their sleeve


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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Cases of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines have been shipped across the country this week to vaccinate 28 million children between the ages of five and 11. Many experts are concerned the vaccine supply will far outweigh demand, as a group of parents remains concerned about vaccination.

“There is going to be a subset of parents who are very anxious to receive the vaccine for their children. There are going to be many other parents who are quite hesitant,” Dr. Jeffrey Gardner, a pediatrician with Arnot Health, said.

During the onset of the pandemic in 2020, older Americans were getting infected more easily. As the vaccine rolled out with older age groups and the delta variant emerged, younger people began contracting COVID at a much higher rate in 2021.

“Compared to last winter, the largest groups of individuals getting infected now are under age 18,” Dr. Michael Scalzone, Chief Quality Officer at Guthrie Health, told 18 News.

COVID-19 cases spiked at the end of 2020 and during the late winter of 2021. With the colder months looming near, healthcare professionals hope this year will be different because all Americans older than five are eligible for the shot. Earlier this week, Pfizer announced more data is coming for even younger age groups and it could be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of 2021.

The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary reactions — such as sore arms, fever, or achiness — that teens experience.

But the study wasn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second full-strength dose, mostly in young men and teen boys. It’s unclear if younger children getting a smaller dose also will face that rare risk.

“It was found to be just as effective for this young age group. We have fewer side effects,” Dr. Gardner explained.

While children are at lower risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 than older people, 5- to 11-year-olds still have been seriously affected — including over 8,300 hospitalizations, about a third requiring intensive care, and nearly 100 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the FDA.

And with the extra-contagious delta variant circulating, the government has counted more than 2,000 coronavirus-related school closings just since the start of the school year, affecting more than a million children.

In a poll conducted via 18 News and reporter Tara Lynch’s social media, fewer than 10 respondents said they are ready to vaccinate their children, and more than 30 participants indicated they would not get their child vaccinated.

For parents who plan to have their kids roll up their sleeves, Dr. Scalzone has a few tips to have a successful vaccination process.

“Help kids understand that they may have some side effects afterward, but to minimize that so that they’re not afraid,” Dr. Scalzone continued. “What we want to avoid are those children having significant anxiety.”

Experts say the decision to vaccinate should come down to considering risk reduction and management rather than risk elimination. They say it is important to weigh the potential harm and benefit before making a final decision.

“The risk of the disease is far outweighed by the benefit of the vaccine. The risk of the vaccine comparatively is extraordinarily small,” Dr. Gardner concluded.

18 News will continue to follow this developing story, as New Yorkers await final approval of the low-dose Pfizer vaccine from the New York State Department of Health.

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