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John Piatkowski, MD

Why children age 5 to 11 years old should get the COVID-19 vaccine

As a health plan medical director, physician, and father of kids in elementary and middle school, I cheered earlier this month when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the COVID-19 vaccine for 28 million children age 5 to 11 years old and rushed pediatric doses out to vaccination sites.

 

Within a week of the CDC’s announcement, nearly 1 million kids nationwide had received their first dose, including mine. Here’s why this is such an important development in the fight against COVID-19 and why I’m encouraging parents to get their young children vaccinated as soon as possible:

 

• While it’s true that adults are more likely than young children to suffer serious illness or die, children ages 5 to 11 can – and do – get sick from COVID-19. In fact, more than 2 million COVID-19 cases occurred in that age group since the pandemic began, and nearly 200 of those children died. (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#demographics)

• Vaccination is the most effective strategy for the alpha and delta variants of COVID-19. Wearing a mask, maintaining at least six feet of distance, and frequent hand sanitizing are excellent practices that reduce the spread of COVID-19, but vaccination works best, even against the newer delta variant. In fact, researchers have shown that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 96% effective, and the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85% effective at preventing severe illness from the delta variant (https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-variant-vaccine). If you have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine for your child, please talk to your child’s physician.

• Vaccination is the most effective strategy for the alpha and delta variants of COVID-19. Wearing a mask, maintaining at least six feet of distance, and frequent hand sanitizing are excellent practices that reduce the spread of COVID-19, but vaccination works best, even against the newer delta variant. In fact, researchers have shown that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 96% effective, and the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85% effective at preventing severe illness from the delta variant (https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-variant-vaccine). If you have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine for your child, please talk to your child’s physician.

• Kids can also develop a rare but serious COVID-19 complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS). It can cause different body parts, including the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and other vital organs, to become inflamed. Most kids who develop MIS will need to be treated in a hospital, and some will need intensive care. We don’t know exactly why some kids develop MIS, but we do know the best way to avoid developing MIS is to avoid getting COVID-19.

• Children can spread COVID-19 to others, including teachers, daycare providers, classmates, friends, grandparents, parents, siblings and other family members who may be at higher risk of serious illness due to their age or underlying health conditions. Giving the vaccine to children age 5 to 11 helps keep their families and communities safe, too.

• Being in school is healthy for kids. When COVID-19 case rates are low, schools can stay open. Schools are safe and enriching places for kids to be, and not just for the academics. At school, they also learn social and emotional skills, get exercise, and have access to healthy meals, support from teachers and staff, and other essential services.

• A final reminder: the vaccine is free and convenient for Medica members. Medica waives costs for the COVID-19 vaccine and administration fees for our members regardless of whether they receive it at in- or out-of-network pharmacies, doctor’s offices, hospitals, or federally qualified health centers. 

 

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John Piatkowski, MD

Dr. Piatkowski is a pediatrician and Vice President of Physician Services at Medica.

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