Virus Outbreak Kids Vaccine
Marin Ackerman, 10, center, receives a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine from registered nurse Sydney Mogul, right, with some distraction help from certified child life specialist Hanna Mathess during the first covid-19 vaccine clinic in Franklin County for children age 5-11 at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columus, Ohio Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Data shows that the Pfizer vaccine is effective and safe in children. It prevents 91% of cases of COVID-19, writes Chief Health Policy Advisor for Milwaukee County.

I, and every physician I have talked to, hope to be first in line to get their 5-11 year old children vaccinated against COVID-19. Here’s why:

The motivations that have led the many of us to receive the vaccine are varied. For some, it is simply to protect themselves. For many more, it is to protect those around them—the immunocompromised sibling, the unvaccinated child, or the elderly parent.

For children, the reasons for vaccination are equally wide ranging and just as critical.

To be clear, children have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, both directly and indirectly. Nationally, more than 6 million children have been infected with COVID-19; 897 have died. COVID-19 is one of the top 10 causes of death in children.

In addition to the acute effects of COVID-19, long term suffering from the virus in children is real. Studies vary, but have found that 4% to 50% of children have persistent symptoms more than a month after illness, including difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, or fatigue. This variability in incidence elucidates the unknown impacts of COVID-19 impacts —we do not yet fully comprehend the implications of this disease in children.

Then there are the indirect effects of COVID-19, such as repeated quarantines and decreased social interaction. Once vaccinated, kids typically do not need to quarantine when a positive case occurs in their classroom. Moreover, many parents may feel more comfortable returning their fully vaccinated children to public settings such as the grocery store and family gatherings.

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Equally important to the personal protection the vaccine provides is the societal impact. Our children do not exist in isolation. They interact with teachers, grandparents, and neighbors—groups who likely possess a higher risk profile for severe illness. Vaccinating our children protects everyone around them.

Data shows that the Pfizer vaccine is effective and safe in children. It prevents 91% of cases of COVID-19, while maintaining an excellent safety profile. There will be sore arms, mild headaches, and low grade fevers, but in thousands of children studied no serious effects were found.

While myocarditis (or heart inflammation) was found in about 1/100,000 people who received the mRNA vaccine, these cases tended to be mild and resolved with ibuprofen. This extremely rare side effect is expected to be even less common in the younger age group. Critically, myocarditis is about 16 times more common in COVID-19 disease than with the vaccine.

Can we guarantee that there will be no long term side effects from the vaccine? Of course not. But there is a track record of safety in this vaccine with hundreds of millions of doses administered worldwide. Vaccines work for short periods in our body and then leave—that is why long-term unrecognized effects from vaccines simply do not happen. The same cannot be said for a virus that is designed to infect and spread and has proven to cause mysterious long-haul symptoms and complications. We know a lot about the vaccine—we know comparatively very little about this virus.