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Pediatrician answers questions for parents concerned about COVID vaccine

Kids COVID-19 vaccines
Posted at 10:56 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 23:50:03-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- As first-time parents, a Richmond couple, who preferred not to give their names, said their whole world changed when their now 19-month-old came into their life.

“It’s very sobering. Because it’s the first time in your life, in my life, where you’re so responsible for someone else’s wellbeing and for their future," said the mother.

And when it came to that responsibility and the COVID vaccine, she said she was skeptical.

“We won’t get it until more research comes out and we would never even consider giving it to our toddler at this point,” she said.

Toddlers are not yet eligible for the vaccine, but earlier in the week, Pfizer’s mini dose became available for kids ages 5 to 11.

However, these parents said even if their son was of age, they still wouldn’t consider it. Many others online have echoed that sentiment for their children as well. One reason is the small chance COVID would be a significant issue for their son even if he did get it.

“It’s as simple as, I don’t see the upside,” said the father. “The percentage of children who have a significant issue from it that don’t just fully recover and move on -- it’s so small."

Another reason why the couple isn't on board with the vaccine is they said it is highly politicized. While they believed in science and medicine, they also knew science and medicine are constantly evolving.

"Just the way that it’s been rushed on us, and the way that it’s been pushed, and there’s been coercion, you know? People have been getting paid to take it. It just makes me skeptical,” said Mom. “And I know that sounds crazy. I know that makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist but I have questions that aren’t really being answered.”

CBS 6 spoke with Children’s Hospital of Richmond Pediatrician Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough about some of the most common concerns she was hearing from parents. Below is her response to those questions.

How can we be sure there are no long-term side effects?

“The number one thing I tell parents is that we don't see long-term effects from any vaccine. We expect to see, if there is going to be anything that's on that long-term range, it happens in six to eight weeks,” said Dr. Kimbrough. “And the kiddos who were in the studies, they followed for three months and followed for any safety event, and then reported all of those as part of their emergency use authorization. So we know that this is a safe vaccine, and we do not expect to see any long-term side effects.

Can the COVID vaccine impact my child’s fertility down the road?

“I can just unequivocally say there have been multiple studies that have looked at this looking at the ability to conceive, looking at rates of spontaneous abortion or loss of pregnancy, and then also just looking to make sure nothing's accumulating in those reproductive organs. And everything has been incredibly reassuring. There is no risk at this point that we are seeing for fertility,” said Dr. Kimbrough.

Why do children need the COVID vaccine when COVID is typically a mild disease for them?

“We do know that kids, for the most part, do well as they do with all infectious diseases, but not every kiddo does. So, unfortunately, there have been over 600 children (in the U.S. since the pandemic began) who have passed away from COVID-19, which surpasses our influenza rates,” said Dr. Kimbrough “And unfortunately, the rate of that death has increased over the last few months with the Delta variant, really predominantly now targeting kids, because they are the predominant unvaccinated population.

How is Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for children different than for adults?

“It’s a reduced dose. So the adults get a 30 microgram dose, kids get 10, so they get a third of the adult dose. It is still two doses that are given three weeks apart. And it's in a slightly different buffer or a slightly different solution that makes it more shelf-stable. So it doesn't have to be super cool. It can go right into the refrigerator of the pediatrician's office,” said Dr. Kimbrough.

What went into Pfizer’s clinical trials to test the vaccine for children?

“There were 2200 kids that were enrolled, and they did a blind study, which means that neither the parents nor the researchers knew if the kiddos got the vaccine, or if they got a placebo, and they did 66%, or two-thirds of them got the vaccine and a third got the placebo, they measured their antibodies. So, how many of those little white cells are floating around that can fight off infection. And then they also watch to see if kids got COVID during the trial period, then the FDA said, ‘We’d like your study to be a little bit bigger.’ So they went back and enrolled 2200 more kids. So they doubled the size. And they presented all of that data when they went before the FDA. And the study was thorough, and it looked at all of those things. It tracked each of those kiddos and made sure they completed the study and followed them from the time they enrolled until the time the study was completed. And what they also found, in addition to really good antibodies, so meaning the immune systems were really working hard is that there were less rates of COVID infection in the vaccinated group compared to the placebo. So they saw good antibody response, but they also saw less disease,” Dr. Kimbrough said.

Were there any children who had adverse side effects?

“Not from the trials. So, they did look to see whether any myocarditis cases in this five to 11-year-old group and they reported zero, but it's so rare to see myocarditis after the vaccine that we didn't really expect to since the study population was smaller than the adult population when they did their initial trial. So, we expect that we'll be following that really closely. We've vaccinated, you know, millions of teenagers now, so we know that rate of myocarditis is really low. But we do see a little bit more in males than we do females,” Dr. Kimbrough said.

What is your message to those who are skeptical?

“I think anything new is normal to have worries and to be hesitant but bring those worries to your child's health care provider because we're so ready to have these conversations. We want to have them with you in a way that you trust us as your child's pediatrician or family practice doctor. It's so hard because there's a lot of misinformation out there on the internet. It's hard to kind of parse through that on your own. So let us help you with that,” Dr. Kimbrough said.