Alabama’s public health and pediatric infectious disease experts urge parents to get their children aged 5 and up vaccinated against COVID-19, now that the lower dose Pfizer vaccine is available for children five to 11.
Every major organization focused on pediatric and child health says children should get vaccinated against COVID-19, said Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, speaking during a forum held Friday and hosted by the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly endorses vaccine in five to 11-year-olds, as well as 12 through 17-year-olds. The Infectious Disease Society of America strongly endorses vaccination of pediatric and adolescent patients. The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society strongly endorses vaccination of pediatric and adolescent patients. This is something across the board that’s recommended,” Kimberlin said.
COVID-19 is the eighth leading cause of death for children, Kimberlin said, and while the health outcomes for children who contract COVID tend to be better than for adults, that’s not always the case, he explained, and there are long-term health impacts that researchers are still learning about.
“The raw numbers of children who have died – more than 600 nationally. That’s a much smaller number than the three-quarters-of-a-million total deaths that we have had,” Kimberlin said. “That’s a good thing, I guess, except for the 600 families who lost a child. They’re left with that worst hollowed-out feeling you can ever even imagine.”
Kimberlin said between 8 percent to 10 percent of adults and children who contract COVID may have long-term health problems as a result of the virus.
“Those kinds of problems that may go away pretty soon, but they may not. We just don’t know,” Kimberlin said.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Nov. 2 gave the final approval to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11 against COVID-19 with a lower dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Alabama has the fourth-lowest percentage of fully vaccinated residents in the nation, according to the CDC.
Dr. Karen Landers, a pediatrician with the Alabama Department of Public Health, said during the forum that children from birth to 17 still makeup about 18 percent of Alabama’s COVID cases.
“This is not a disease that we want to just take our chances with,” Landers said.
Discussing myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, Kimberlin said the “incredibly rare” instances of a child developing myocarditis after a COVID vaccine,
“Disease-associated myocarditis is much more likely,” Kimberlin said. “The best way to prevent myocarditis is to get the COVID vaccine.”
Vaccine-induced myocarditis is exceedingly rare, is almost always minor and is usually treated with ibuprofen, Kimberlin said.
“COVID disease-induced myocarditis — you’re playing Russian roulette,” Kimberlin said. “You’re rolling the dice.”
“Not getting vaccinated is doing something, and it’s putting your child at risk,” Kimberlin said, and one that could put other family members at risk of illness and death.
Children aged 5 to 11 can now receive a lower dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Those lower dose vaccines are available throughout the state, including pharmacies and county health departments, the Alabama Department of Public Health said Thursday.