The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine could soon roll out to younger kids. With COVID case numbers on the decline, doctors in the Tampa Bay area along with public health experts explain why it’ll still be important for younger kids to be vaccinated when shots are available.
Dr. Jason Salemi, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at USF’s College of Public Health, said since August 1 of last year, there have been nearly 68,000 pediatric hospitalizations for confirmed COVID-19 in the US, and he said over 11%t of those hospitalizations have occurred in Florida.
“Although hospitalization rates for children are going down in Florida and in the entire United States, if we look at the United States as a whole, we’re still higher than any pre-Delta era period since February,” said Salemi. “The point is there is still a risk to children.”
Dr. Salemi said that risk to kids is different depending on their circumstances, like if they have parents that aren’t able to work from home and are at higher risk of exposure or if they live in a multi-generational home. Looking at the data, Salemi explained the Pfizer vaccine was deemed to be safe and effective.
“Even though the risk to this age group is relatively small, we still are not very good at predicting which children will get very ill, which children will have symptoms, which children will be hospitalized,” said Dr. Salemi. “So if I can get a safe vaccine that ends up protecting children even from symptomatic illness, why wouldn’t I do that?”
“Although the numbers are dropping, it’s not nothing, and we want to prevent cases of these types of complications from COVID that can occur in kids,” said Dr. Laura Arline, BayCare’s Chief Quality Officer.
The CDC reminds people while fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus, get sick from COVID-19, and spread it to other people. Dr. Arline shared some of the complications from COVID that can happen in kids.
“Another complication is something called long COVID, where even with mild symptoms, the children can be left with months of having symptoms associated, typically associated with COVID, like fatigue or chronic headaches or the brain fog that can go along with that,” said Arline.
Experts also point out the more people, including children, that get vaccinated, the lower the likelihood another concerning variant will emerge.
“Parents and caregivers, we know that they love their children and they will defend them fiercely against any kind of harm, and this vaccine is one of the greatest tools that’s out there to help you do that,” said Dr. Arline.