The Louisiana Department of Health is urging parents to get children ages 5-11 vaccinated against COVID-19 after recent approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the holiday season begins.
The CDC recommended the two-injection Pfizer-BioNTech for children ages 5-11 on Nov. 2 at one-third the dosage given to older children and adults.
According to LDH’s Regional Health Director for Acadiana Dr. Tina Stefanksi still provides the vaccine with a similarly high level of immunity against COVID-19 to children at the lower dose as it does to adults at the full dose.
“The vaccine is about 91% effective at preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 to 11. So it’s very effective even at that smaller dose,” Stefanksi said.
Although the critical illness rate from COVID-19 is lower in children aged 5-11 than in other age groups, the virus still has the potential to hospitalize and kill young children.
“Across the country, 94 children have died and more than 8,000 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, in the age group of 5 to 11 years,” Stefanski said.
“They can be prevented with vaccination, so luckily we now have a vaccine for that age group.”
Because children are more likely to have asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, they are more likely to also spread it to older people, such as parents and grandparents, without knowing they have the virus, which poses a particular threat to public health when families gather for the sophomore holiday celebrations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As people get older, their immune systems aren’t as strong. And so they may not have that 90% protection against a vaccine that someone younger would have,” Stefanksi said.
“We want to make sure older people get their booster dose because we know that will help boost their immunity. But an extra level of protection is to surround them with people who have been vaccinated, including those children who may be asymptomatic spreaders.”
Stefanski, a pediatrician at the practice, said parents should talk to their children’s doctors about the vaccine if they have concerns, especially about possible allergies to some ingredients, which are found in other drugs.
She also noted that there were concerns about myocarditis episodes in boys aged 5-11 who took the vaccine, but these cases have occurred at a rate of only 54 cases per million vaccinations, which is much lower than the number myocarditis in boys in that age group who contracted COVID-19.
“When you weigh that against a vaccine that has been administered to more than 400 million people with a good safety profile and that is effective in preventing cases of COVID-19, we want parents to know that,” Stefanski said.
“These are decisions made after many reviews of safety data. All of this has considered risks and benefits, and every professional organization continues to strongly recommend this vaccination for children, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.