INDIANAPOLIS — Hospitals and health departments have been working for weeks and months to prepare for getting COVID shots into the arms of younger children. The FDA approved Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids ages 5-11 for emergency use Friday.
While hospitals and health experts are ready, many parents are not. The COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor from Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 27% of parents would vaccinate their child in that age range "right away" once authorized. About one-third of parents said they would "wait and see," while 30% of parents said they would definitely not get their 5-to-11-year-old vaccinated.
Dr. Sarah Bosslet, the director of primary care at Riley Hospital for Children, is confident those attitudes will change once vaccines start rolling out.
She answered questions about Pfizer's vaccine for kids 5-11.
On vaccine efficacy
Bosslet: "The data's really good. When we look at the main goal for this vaccine, it's to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. And we have seen a significant increase in both hospitalizations and deaths from COVID in children in this past year.
The COVID vaccine prevents 100%, so far, of the hospitalizations and death in children, which is unbelievable, and the safety profile is really good. We know it can certainly cause some pain and redness at the site where you get your shot. The dose for children is going to be lower than the dose that adults receive, and so with that, we've seen a decrease in the amount of fever and other full-body side effects that many of us adults experienced with our COVID vaccine. So it's a really reassuring, excellent safety profile and the prevention of death and hospitalizations is super exciting."
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On sample size
Bosslet: "The sample size was very good. We have to balance how quickly to roll this out with making sure we test enough children to feel comfortable and confident in the results. They've tested thousands of children with this vaccine, and the safety profile and effectiveness were so good that we feel really comfortable with the numbers that we've got. And as with (the) COVID vaccine and all vaccines, we will continue to monitor as we roll this out to make sure that there's nothing that we see in the coming weeks that's different. But we don't expect any differences. We feel really comfortable that thousands of children were studied and tested. I'll be taking my own 7-year-old to get his vaccine as soon as we're able."
On long-term effects
Bosslet: "What I will tell you is we know it's not a question of if your children will get infected with COVID, it's a question of when. So we know that what we have to do is prepare children's bodies as best as possible — just like an adult's — by giving them a vaccine so that their body starts to understand what's coming. So that when they do get exposed, they already have the playbook, they know how to fight that infection off. And so their exposure will mean either no symptoms at all or very mild symptoms. That's the goal with this vaccine.
When we look at the long-term side effects, in all of our studies of vaccines in the past, when there were side effects that were significant, it was almost immediately after we started trialing that vaccine or within six weeks of getting the vaccine. So that's the timeframe we usually look at, and with the COVID vaccine, we've not seen any long-term side effects that we worry about. So it's very reassuring. I don't have any concerns for my own children or for my patients about any long-term side effects with COVID vaccine."