There was excitement, then disappointment when Dr. Sarah Cross took her children in recently for a flu shot. This Twin Cities family is ready for the COVID-19 pandemic to be over, and Margot, 5, was hoping to finally get vaccinated against what she calls "THE virus."
Finding out that day's immunization was for a different virus was a bit of a letdown. Cross, the medical director of The Birthplace at M Health Fairview, quickly reassured her daughter that it will happen "soon, soon, soon."
Fortunately, Margot didn't have to wait long. On Tuesday, federal health officials took the final steps to authorize the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Margot, a kindergartner, will be among the first wave of kids this age to be vaccinated, with an appointment scheduled Sunday morning.
It will be a celebratory moment for the family and a step back toward normal life, Cross said. Hopefully, Minnesota families will soon follow this physician family's conscientious, commendable lead.
The Centers for Disease Control advisory panel that signed off on the two-shot Pfizer series for kids on Tuesday did so unanimously. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) weighed in soon after the panel's vote. Its enthusiastic recommendation notes that clinical trials in children 5 to 11 found the vaccine to be 91% effective.
Well-known Minnesota infectious-disease expert Mike Osterholm told an editorial writer: "I want to see every eligible child in this age group vaccinated." He also addressed a vaccination concern — that there's a very low risk of developing a heart muscle inflammation called myocarditis.
After looking at the data, Osterholm said it's clear that getting COVID is much riskier to a child's heart than the vaccine. "It's not even close."
With COVID disinformation metastasizing online, there are concerns that families may delay or forgo the shots. Questions are understandable, but with them comes the responsibility to seek credible answers.
Trusted doctors are an excellent resource, and the AAP has made it clear that its members welcome discussion. We urge the Minnesota Medical Association and the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians to do even more to help address concerns. Vaccinations are critical to containing COVID in the winter months ahead.
Parents wanting to do a deeper dive should review the dozens of slides used at the CDC meeting to summarize scientific data. These are public and remain available at bit.ly/3k99FEv. According to federal health officials, vaccinating kids 5 to 11 will protect kids and reduce the spread of COVID by 8% over the winter months.
Those who dismiss COVID's risks are irresponsible. Yes, children are less likely to have severe illness. Nevertheless, at least 8,300 children 5 to 11 have required hospitalization so far, and 94 have died. Keep in mind that these figures likely would have been higher had there not been mitigation measures. COVID infection's long-term risks remain unknown.
As a mom and physician, Cross shared her daughter's excitement about vaccination. It will protect Margot's younger siblings, who aren't eligible for the shots, and everyone around her. "There's the benefit to her and the benefit to the community," Cross said. "Life is not an individual sport. COVID has really proven that to us."