By Juliet Martinez
Kara Volk’s son Harland turned 12 in September. For his birthday, he got an electric scooter and a vaccine against COVID-19. At the end of October, the Pfizer shot was cleared for use in children ages five to 11. Now, Harland’s younger friends can be vaccinated if their parents make it happen.
Polls suggest some parents are hesitant to have their children vaccinated. But doctors are urging them to get their kids vaccinated. There is no way to know how sick a child who catches COVID-19 will be, according to a CDC analysis of hospitalization records. About a third of kids who have been hospitalized because of COVID-19 had no other health problems. Black, Hispanic and Native American children were three times more likely to be severely ill than white children, according to the CDC.
"Everything about this virus is unpredictable." Dr. David Kimberlin, an infectious disease pediatrician spoke with NPR. "And we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves and to protect our children."
Ms. Volk said when the vaccine became available for 12-year-olds, she told Harland he was getting the shot on his birthday. Her nine-year-old got his first Pfizer shot, about a third as much as the adult dose, on Veteran’s Day. In clinical trials, 2,268 children got that dose. More than 90% of them had no symptoms of COVID-19, even if they caught it.
Meanwhile, a recent CDC analysis showed that unvaccinated teens with COVID-19 are 10 times more likely to become seriously ill. Every one of those cases is preventable, said Dr. Amanda Cohn, during an FDA advisory committee that voted to support making the vaccine available for younger kids.
Still, some parents will worry about side effects from the vaccine. Vaccine maker, Pfizer-BioNTec reported to the Food and Drug Administration that the common ones include pain in the arm where they got the shot, feeling tired, headaches and muscle aches. None last more than a few days.
Side effects were not an issue for Harland. “He didn’t have any,” Ms. Volk said. “It was almost anticlimactic how easy it was.