TAMPA, Fla. — “The omicron variant is pretty resistant to some of our vaccines,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor for the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
Experts say that’s the main reason why vaccine advisors with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention decided to recommend booster shots for kids as young as 12.
“The data actually showed that with just two shots, the primary series with doses one and two, it didn’t actually offer really good protection against omicron,” said Roberts.
As pediatric COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have soared over the past few weeks, doctors say they realized kids needed more protection, but took a close look at the data before making the recommendation that children 12 and older can now get a booster shot at least five months after their initial series.
“So why this became such a big conversation around it was number one, was really it needed? Which it is, against omicron. But the additional factor is really thinking about the potential side effects. So when we get into that age group we can potentially see some cases of myocarditis and pericarditis and it seems to be really related to age and so there’s a lot of discussion around that particular issue,” said Roberts.
Myocarditis and pericarditis are inflammation of the heart or the area around it. It’s a very rare side defect that kids can get from the vaccine and doctors say it’s usually temporary.
“Any child that’s complaining of tightening in the chest, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, that needs to be evaluated,” said Roberts.
Doctors say kids do typically recover from this and that the effects of contracting COVID-19 could be worse.
“We’re seeing the damage that omicron is doing right? Right now especially with this surge, it’s pretty bad,” said Roberts.
As kids head back to school, health officials say the booster shots will give them the best protection we have.
“When we think about this discussion in terms of can we keep kids in school, what can we do to protect kids, it really became necessary to add a third booster shot,” said Roberts.