Vaccinating 5-11 year olds in SC poses another challenge for doctors

Will SC parents vaccinate their 5-11 year olds
Will SC parents vaccinate their 5-11 year olds(Adam Mintzer)
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 7:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The CEO of Pfizer says data on the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 will be ready to be sent to the FDA in a matter of days rather than weeks.

But in South Carolina, vaccine hesitancy has been common amongst young people who are eligible for the shot.

Nearly 28 percent of 12-19-year-olds in South Carolina are fully immunized, according to DHEC data. In comparison, 60 percent of 55 to 64-year-olds have completed their vaccine regimen.

However, South Carolina Pediatrician Dr. Deborah Greenhouse says the belief among many that COVID-19 will not significantly harm children is wrong and dangerous.

“The percentage of those kids with COVID who get very sick and end up in the hospital is low, but we have so many more of those kids and adolescents catching COVID now that even a small percentage of a large number means a lot of kids are getting very sick and ending up in the hospital,” Greenhouse said.

According to an August survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 40 percent of parents in the U.S. say they will wait and see before vaccinating their 5 to 11-year-old. The rate of parents who will vaccinate their kids right away and will not vaccinate their kids is at about 25 percent.

“We have got the folks who are literally going to be banging down the doors when the vaccine gets approval to get have a child vaccinated. The ones who trust that the system is working, trust the data we are seeing, and trust the FDA to make the right decision,” Greenhouse said. “The folks on the other side of the picture have absolutely no intention of getting their kids vaccinated regardless of what the data looks like and regardless of what the FDA says.”

In fact, a parent being vaccinated does not necessarily mean they will get their child vaccinated.

Four percent of unvaccinated parents vaccinated their 12 to 17-year-old children. But, 60 percent of vaccinated parents got their kids a shot.

“You will have some parents who say, ‘Gosh, I felt awful after the vaccine so I don’t want my child to have that side effect and feel awful for a day or two after the vaccine.’ So, they may not do it,” Greenhouse said.

She said it will be up to her and other physicians to make sure parents and kids have all the information about the risks of the COVID-19 virus itself so they can compare those to the marginal risk of getting seriously ill from the vaccine.

However, Greenhouse isn’t just concerned about children getting the COVID vaccine, she says a decline in routine visits is leading to fewer children being immunized against preventable diseases.

“Routine immunizations have dropped to the point where in South Carolina we no longer have herd immunity against diseases like whooping cough and measles. So we are now sitting in a realm where we are in the perfect situation for an outbreak of whooping cough or measles on top of the COVID pandemic and that just sends chills up my spine,” Greenhouse said.

National Institute of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins says even if the vaccine is approved for children, they won’t be fully protected this semester.

“People are saying, ‘Maybe by Halloween,’ and that’s not that far off. But keep in mind, if it does get approved for 5 to 11-year-olds, it’ll still be a two-dose regimen,” Collins told WIS.

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