RALEIGH, N.C. — For many families, the day they can get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19 can't come soon enough.
But others aren't so eager. Whether because of fear of side effects or needles, or an ambivalence over the need for the vaccine, many parents aren't in a rush to get their children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated, despite endorsements from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the agencies authorized is the same one given to hundreds of millions of adults and older children worldwide, though in smaller doses — 10 micrograms instead of 30. As with adults, two doses three weeks apart are required to create the full antibody response against coronavirus infection.
The CDC estimates that making vaccine available to children 5 to 11 will prevent about 600,000 cases of COVID-19 by the end of March. Still, polling done for the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests only a third of parents are eager to have their children that age vaccinated, while another third say they want to wait to see how it's working.
A panel of doctors from UNC Medical School in Chapel Hill on Wednesday addressed some of the common concerns about vaccination shared by parents. Here's some of what they had to say:
Do young children need protection against COVID-19?
Before this summer, serious coronavirus infections among children were rare. The main argument for developing a vaccine for young children was to prevent them from carrying the virus and infecting others.
But the more contagious delta variant of the virus changed that, says Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease expert at UNC. By the end of October, more than 8,300 children ages 5 to 11 had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States and 172 had died of the disease, according to the CDC.
"ICUs got chock full during the delta surge," Wohl said. "Pediatric ICUs got filled with people, too."
Now doctors recommend parents get their children vaccinated for their own protection, in addition to protecting the adults around them. The vaccine's track record for safety and effectiveness means they should do it with confidence, Wohl said.