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Local health experts weigh in on COVID-19 vaccines for children

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 10:07 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Earlier this week, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel endorsed a smaller dosage of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds.

The FDA is expected to vote in the next few days whether to authorize giving the vaccine to those younger children. Then, the data will be presented to the Center’s for Disease Control for its approval.

Carla Turner, New Hanover County’s assistant health director, says younger children being able to get the COVID-19 vaccine can create a domino effect for safety among older and more vulnerable populations.

“Lots of kids tend to be mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic, and what’s concerning about that is if I don’t have symptoms and I’m sick and I go to visit grandma, I may be exposing someone who is at high risk, unknowingly to me,” Turner said.

Dr. Khadijia Tribie Reid, Pediatric Medical Director at MedNorth Health Center, believes the chance for some of her immunocompromised patients to get vaccinated against the coronavirus would allow them to finally return to in-person learning.

“Depression and anxiety skyrocketed during that [the pandemic], which shows us that children absolutely thrive in those social, academic environments and, goodness, they missed out,” Dr. Tribie said.

With a young child of her own, Dr. Tribie expects other families, like hers, would be eager to get their children vaccinated.

“My 12-year-old had the vaccine, which leaves my nine-year-old, who is a little upset that she’s been left out,” said Dr. Tribie. “She’s ready, she’s absolutely ready. So within my house we have some readiness, and I think that reflects what you’re going to see in families as a whole.”

She also knows that some families might not want to vaccinate their children right away.

“A lot of the parents are hesitant about being first in line, they want to, kind of, see what’s going to happen and, of course, the FDA will continue to monitor this vaccine just as they are monitoring the vaccine in adults and adolescents,” said Dr. Tribie.

The FDA panel approved a smaller dose of the vaccine for children, which is about one-third of the adult dosage.

Turner says the county will make the vaccine available for children as soon as it is approved and when the allotment of doses from the state is received. Turner adds that one place vaccines may be distributed is at the county’s Independence Mall site.

“We have the ability to set up what I call, kind of, private vaccination seats in that site at the mall so that if I’m a six-year-old and I’m sitting down in a chair to get vaccinated I’m not looking over and watching the 10-year-old beside me getting vaccinated,” said Turner. “We can kind of break that up and give each family, each parent, and the child some privacy to help ease any anxiety surrounding the vaccination.”

Turner encourages parents to be thoughtful and hopes they will bring their children to get vaccinated.

“Please know that this vaccine for the pediatric population went through the same rigorous testing that other vaccines have gone through, that quite honestly any vaccine or any medication goes through before it’s approved by those entities,” said Turner.

To find out where you can get a vaccine in New Hanover County, visit the health department’s website.

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