NC pediatrician: Why all eligible school-age kids should get the new COVID vaccine

·3 min read

As a pediatrician who has provided primary care to thousands of children since 1977, I am excited about the expected authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine to protect children ages 5 to 11.

My wife and I are fully immunized against COVID, as are all our eligible children and grandchildren. I am recommending that all children ages 5 and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine after it is authorized and found to be safe and effective by the FDA and CDC.

This recommendation has been encouraged by my colleagues at the N.C. Pediatric Society, N.C. Academy of Family Physicians, N.C. Medical Society, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the ABC Science Collaborative at Duke University School of Medicine.

In coming weeks, independent vaccine advisory committees of CDC and FDA experts will meet to consider the safety, effectiveness and need factors for giving the vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 — meaning that nearly every child in the school-aged population could soon be eligible to receive it.

The FDA advisory committee meets Oct. 26, and this week the White House told governors to begin preparing to vaccinate children ages 5-11 by early November, pending FDA authorization.

When COVID first arrived in 2020, we thought it primarily affected older people. But since July 2021, the U.S. has experienced a 240% increase in COVID infections in children, with 25-30% of all new cases occurring in children. Almost 600 children have died from COVID since the pandemic began.

Many parents want to get their children vaccinated against COVID because they are worried about them becoming seriously ill. Across the state, medical professionals are now figuring out how to better organize their offices so that all families who want their children to be protected can easily access the vaccine in coming weeks.

Other parents are not sure yet, mainly because there is a tremendous amount of misinformation on social media. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and confused. Parents with questions about their children’s health should talk to their physician.

What we do know is that people who are not vaccinated are more than 400% more likely to get infected with COVID — and more than 1,800% more likely to die from COVID. Over 700,000 people in the U.S., including more than 17,000 people in N.C., have died from COVID since the pandemic struck.

Our experience with vaccine preventable diseases has shown that immunizing children also protects their adult family members, siblings who aren’t old enough to get a vaccine, teachers, and other adults with whom they have regular contact. If we really want to control COVID throughout our population, we must immunize all eligible people as soon as possible. Another COVID surge is predicted for the coming holiday season!

My decades of practice have taught me well the power of vaccines in stopping the spread of disease and suffering, for individual children and entire families and communities. Families have seen this play out since the vaccine was authorized for children ages 12-18 who were able to return to activities that help them develop into the independent, creative, productive adults we want them to become.

We want that for younger children too. Increasing the number of people of all ages who are vaccinated will make everyone, and every community, safer.

Dr. David T. Tayloe Jr. is a Goldsboro pediatrician and past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the N.C. Pediatric Society.

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