DC doctor urges COVID-19 vaccination, boosters for eligible young children

Acknowledging significant hesitancy around vaccinating children against COVID-19, a D.C. pediatrician urges parents to reflect upon potentially bad consequences of leaving them unprotected.

Parents of kids 5 to 11 years old are being urged to get them vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, now that final authorization for emergency use has come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC on Thursday adopted the recommendation for a third COVID-19 shot for healthy elementary-age kids.

This follows the Food and Drug Administration giving a green light on Tuesday.

Dr. Sarah Schaffer DeRoo, with Children’s National Hospital, said that while most children do fine when they get infected with COVID-19, there are a handful of children who have long-term effects.

“There’s concern for MIS-C, which is a multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children. There’s concern for myocarditis after COVID-19 infection. There’s concern for long COVID, which we’re still learning about. And because the children in this age group are so young, they potentially have the rest of their lives to live with the consequences of a COVID-19 infection,” she said.

Secondly, vaccinated children who get infected are less likely to spread the ailment to more vulnerable people, such as children younger than 5, the elderly and people who have serious adverse reactions to vaccination.

“So, thinking about the broader community, and how we might protect our neighbors, and our friends and our schoolmates, and our work colleagues, etc.,” Schaffer DeRoo said.

Addressing hesitancy, she also said the vaccine is safe: “There’s concern for risks associated with vaccination, which thankfully haven’t borne out in the trials and in the millions of doses that have been administered across the country and globe.”

Children 5 to 11 years old who have had their first series of COVID-19 shots are eligible for boosters at least five months after their last dose.

Potential side effects include injection site pain, redness and swelling, which are the same as they are for the first two doses.

“And these things are expected and suggest that there is a robust immune response to the vaccine,” Schaffer DeRoo said.

Don’t forget about routine childhood vaccinations that the pandemic may have led people to get behind on.

“If children are not fully immunized with the routinely recommended childhood vaccines, we risk outbreaks of other preventable childhood diseases like measles, pertussis, etc.” she said.

As COVID-19 vaccines and boosters get approved for broader swathes of the community, Schaffer DeRoo expressed dismay that there’s been no apparent movement on review of a COVID-19 vaccine for children younger than five.

“Not only is society not masking, not only are children needing to go to child care institutions, not only are parents needing to work, but we have zero ways to protect children under 5,” Schaffer DeRoo said. “This is of utmost importance. The FDA is sitting on Moderna data right now, and has not moved to start reviewing that data, at least to the public’s knowledge.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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