The FDA has authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine for kids age 12 to 15. But there’s still a lot of vaccine hesitancy and skepticism, and many parents wonder if their kids should get the vaccine.
Should kids get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Dr. Tina Tan, professor of pediatrics at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University and an infectious diseases attending physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of health policy and preventative medicine, Vanderbilt University
Yes, kids should get vaccinated for COVID-19, for their own health and the safety of their community.
WHAT WE FOUND
A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 29 percent of parents (with kids under 18 years old) will get their children vaccinated right away; 32 percent want to wait to see how the vaccine is working; 15 percent say they’ll only do it if their school requires a vaccine; and 19 percent say they definitely won’t get their child vaccinated.
CDC data shows less than 300 kids have died from COVID-19, far fewer than any other age group, but experts say those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“I think death is kind of a very shortsighted way of looking at this, because we do know that children can suffer from severe COVID disease,” Dr. Tina Tan said.
Nationwide, at least 15,000 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“We've seen kids as young as three months of age hospitalized with COVID, in an intensive care unit, on a ventilator,” Dr. Tan said. “And they got the COVID from one of their family members.”
Experts say the best way to protect kids against COVID-19 is to get them vaccinated.
Pfizer’s adolescent trial tested its vaccine on more than 1,100 kids aged 12 to 15. Early results indicate none of them got COVID-19, making it 100 percent effective.
More than 2,000 kids 12 to 17 years old received Moderna’s vaccine during its adolescent trial. Early results show 96 percent efficacy.
Experts are also concerned about children spreading the virus.
The newest CDC data shows far more COVID cases among children under 18 than seniors over 65 years old.
“[Kids] can give the virus to others,” Dr. William Schaffner said. “Remember, there are children and adults who are immunocompromised, who cannot either receive the vaccine or who will have a much diminished response. How do we protect our frail brothers and sisters? All the rest of us get protected.”
And experts say the more COVID-19 spreads, the greater the chance it could mutate and make the current vaccines less effective.
Experts estimate to reach herd immunity, or something close to it, roughly 70 to 90 percent of Americans need to be vaccinated. And U.S. census data shows kids under 18 make up roughly 22 percent of the U.S. population.
“Theoretically you could [reach herd immunity without vaccinating children] if you look at the numbers,” Dr. Fauci told VERIFY in January. “But if you look at the numbers, given the fact that not every adult is going to get vaccinated, you’re likely going to have to include children in that.”
Now that the FDA has authorized a vaccine for adolescents, experts say the CDC will make recommendations for parents to consider. The CDC continually updates recommendations for adults receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
“The only children who should not be vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines at this time are those that have anaphylaxis to influenza vaccine or any of the components in the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Tan said. “It is strongly recommended that immunocompromised children be vaccinated since they are at higher risk for developing severe COVID-19 disease and complications if they get COVID.”
Experts recommend parents with more complicated concerns about their children and any underlying medical conditions contact their pediatrician.
Experts agree that children need to be vaccinated for COVID, not just to protect them, but to prevent further spread and mutation of the virus.
“Let's protect as many children as we can, as quickly as we can,” Dr. Schaffner said. “It works for measles. It works for polio, why are we hesitant for COVID?”
More from VERIFY: Yes, kids 12 and up will get the same COVID vaccine dose as adults