U.S. parents weigh risks, benefits as COVID-19 vaccine for kids nears approval By Reuters
By Joseph Ax and Sharon Bernstein
(Reuters) – In an ideal world, Leah Smithers said she could afford to wait for longer-term testing of the COVID-19 vaccines before getting the jab for her 10-year-old son.
He is at increased risk from complications due to his juvenile diabetes, and his life has been shaped so heavily by the outbreak. Smithers is eager for her son to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
Smithers, 43 years old, lives in San Francisco’s Albany suburb with two children aged 13 and 4. This seems to be the best option for keeping him safe.
Monday’s announcement from Pfizer (NYSE:) and BioNTech that a low dose of their coronavirus vaccine proved safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11 in a clinical trial has come as a relief to many parents anxiously awaiting the chance to protect their children.
Due to the highly contagious Delta virus, thousands of schools were forced to close for days, if not weeks.
After a 268 participant trial, the vaccine produced a strong immune response. The companies plan to apply for regulatory authorization for a 10-microgram dose to children aged 5-11. For children aged 12-15, the original 30 microgram dose has been approved as an emergency vaccine. Officials believe the vaccine at a lower dosage could be approved by October for children younger than 12.
Parents have voiced concern about their children’s vaccinations, noting the insufficient long-term studies or large-scale data. The United States has approximately 29 million children aged 5-11 years old.
“Many are parents who themselves have been vaccinated – and their kids are vaccinated for everything else – but are just concerned about a brand-new vaccine,” said Shen Nagel, a pediatrician in the Denver area. They also believe that their children have a lower chance of getting serious diseases.
The Kaiser Family Foundation published August poll data showing that four-in-10 parents of children between 5 and 11 years old said they would wait until the vaccine had worked to give the vaccine to their children. A quarter of parents said that they wouldn’t get their kids vaccinated and another quarter stated they would.
Public health specialists and pediatricians said that as the years go by, parents are becoming less anxious.
Nancy Lataitis is another Denver pediatrician. She said that some parents who are worried about a pandemic have come to realize that vaccines may be their only option.
She said that schools are closing and imposing quarantines. They’re also hearing from teachers who have fallen ill.
Jill Goldstein (55) had to remove her 8-year old daughter from New York City Elementary School on the second day. A child who tested positive for the virus caused a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Goldstein assured her daughter she would have her child vaccinated, though she admitted that it might be difficult for her to get there first.
She said, “I want to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks.” “I am aware that the community and her health are also benefited by the vaccines, so I will be taking those into account.”
Los Angeles, home to the nation’s second largest school district, has already mandated vaccines for students 12 and up.
According to federal data, slightly more than half of U.S. kids aged 12-15 have received at least one shot. This is lower than the average for any age.
Although children are still at lower risk of developing COVID-19-related complications, nearly 500 of them have already died. This makes it one of the leading causes of child death from infectious diseases, according to Sean O’Leary (vice chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ infectious disease committee).
Some areas are plagued by high levels of infection and pediatric hospitals have experienced a surge in patients.
O’Leary stated that there’s no reason for the vaccine to be a risk to children younger than five years old.
O’Leary stated, “These vaccines probably have been evaluated for safety more than any other medicine ever.” He said that historically, vaccines do not have long-term side affects. Negative reactions are more common within a few days of vaccination than months.
There is always the possibility that vaccines could have side effects that are not easily detected by small studies. Arthur Reingold of University of California Berkeley School of Public Health is the chair of epidemiology.
He said, “People often say that they want to see more of the case… I would like to do more research.” It’s quite logical, rational and impossible to request for.
Adrienne Day in Brooklyn is a journalist and plans to immunize her daughter at 7 years old.
She said that it was “just like the measles vaccine, rubella vaccination or getting the flu shot”.