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Children with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe COVID-19, North Texas health experts say

Doctors are recommending children 12 and older to get the approved Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, especially those with underlying health conditions.

DALLAS — According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, children with underlying medical conditions are more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19. 

Those conditions listed on the CDC website are:

  • Asthma or chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic, neurologic, or metabolic conditions
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Heart disease since birth
  • Immunosuppression
  • Medical complexity
  • Obesity

The list does not include every underlying condition that may increase the risk factor for children. 

Doctors and experts from across Texas met on Thursday to encourage families with children 12 years or older to give their kids Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. 

"This has gone through a very rigorous process," said Allison Winnike, president of the Immunization Partnership. 

She testified before the CDC Committee on Wednesday. 

"We have the data to show these vaccines are safe and effective," said Winnike. 

Winnike said there has been an increase in hospitalizations for children with the coronavirus. The new variants of COVID-19 also seem to impact children more.

"It is so critical and exciting that we have the opportunity to protect these kids ages 12 and up," said Winnike.

Dr. Dawn Hood-Patterson with Cook Children's in Fort Worth hopes her patients will get vaccinated too. 

"We just want caregivers and parents to know the Pfizer vaccine is safe, and it's the best option for protecting children against COVID-19," said Hood-Patterson. 

Children's Health announced on Thursday that it will begin administering vaccines for children 12 years or older starting Tuesday, May 18 at Children's Medical Center Dallas and Plano, along with pop-up clinics and school district partnerships. 

"I understand parents' potential anxiety," said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn. He's the director of infectious disease at Children's Health.  

"These vaccines are very well-tolerated, and millions of doses have been given safely so far," said Kahn. 

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins held a press conference on Thursday at Parkland Memorial Hospital. He confidently showed his teenage daughter getting the Pfizer vaccine.

Jenkins said, "I hope what we are telling you today is a reassuring message that the vaccine is safe for your child, and you should not delay in getting it." 

In Dallas County, parents can sign up their children on the Dallas County Health and Human Services website. 

Vaccines are already being distributed across North Texas to children 12 years and older.