Schaffner Report on COVID-19 Vaccines: Leading Infectious Disease Expert Talks About COVID-19 Vaccinations for Teens by National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Wondering if you should get your child vaccinated against COVID-19? In the United States, more than 13,000 children have been hospitalized and more than 300 have died because of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. To help stop the spread of the virus among adolescents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine be used in children age 12 to 15 years. The CDC also provided new guidance which now allows COVID-19 vaccines to be given at the same time as other recommended vaccines, including influenza.
In this edition of the Schaffner Report, Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), talks with NFID Executive Director and CEO Marla Dalton about these important new developments. Listen to this 10-minute interview where he explains what this means for health-care professionals and offers advice to parents who are weighing whether or not to get their teens vaccinated against COVID-19.
Here are some key takeaways from the interview:
- The reason for the change in recommendations is straightforward: All of the vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer being first – are doing studies working their way down the age ladder. The Pfizer study among children ages 12 to 15 found that the side effects associated with the vaccine were quite comparable to those occurring in older adolescence and young adults, and the effectiveness was even better. There were no cases of hospitalization or serious COVID-19 in the vaccinated children.
- The FDA gave an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine starting at age 12, and the CDC advisory committee reviewed all of the data very critically and then voted to recommend the use of the vaccine in all children starting at age 12.
- Dr. Schaffner does not see schools issuing a mandate requiring kids to get vaccinated to attend school, at least not in public schools. Some colleges are requiring students to get vaccinated before returning to school.
- It was originally recommended that no other vaccines be given two weeks before or two weeks after getting the COVID vaccine. Now that so many vaccines have been given in the U.S. and the side effects are clear, other vaccines can now be given simultaneously.
- Dr. Schaffner is very enthusiastic about kids getting the vaccine – his own grandchildren have already been vaccinated.
- More than 1.5 million kids have gotten COVID-19, of which 13,000 were hospitalized and 300 died, so Dr. Schaffner feels that is enough reason to vaccinate kids. The CDC also reported that COVID is one of the top causes of death in children and adolescence. Children also can be spreaders, and no one wants their child to spread COVID-19 to someone else. The more children vaccinated this fall when schools open, the safer schools will be.
- As for kids younger than 12, Dr. Schaffner says to be patient – manufacturers are working their way down the age range. Elementary school kids and preschoolers are smaller, so the dose is having to be adjusted to make sure the side effects are minimal while they get the maximum protection from the vaccine. Those studies are underway, and parents are volunteering their children for those studies. Results are expected later in the fall or early in the winter.
- One of the most frequently asked questions Dr. Schaffner has heard recently are parents asking about long-term adverse events associated with vaccines. He counsels parents that this issue can be put aside and they do not need to be concerned about it.
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