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Vaccines for younger kids are on the horizon. Getting hesitant parents on board may be a challenge

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Angelo Esslinger from Pixabay
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Emergency authorization of a lower dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids between the ages 5-11 is on the horizon, but pediatricians and officials expect helping vaccine hesitant parents overcome their concerns will be a big hurdle to getting their kids vaccinated.

Addressing upstate pediatricians, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said after the first rush of eager parents, the biggest challenge to distribution is likely to be reaching those parents who might be more hesitant.

“We’ll end up at a point, based on what their parents did, there’ll be hesitation. People will say, ‘I didn’t get it. So I’m not letting my child get it,’ and those people are going to be a problem for us,” Hochul said. “Then there’s also those people who just need a bit more time.”

Pediatrician Jesse Hackell has been vaccinating older kids and said it’s often the parents, not the kids, who are most worried about the vaccine.

“They’ll have an argument with the parent right in front of you where the parent says no and the child says yes,” Hackell said.

Hackell said he doesn’t want to encourage parents and kids to fight, but the protection the vaccine offers for school age kids far outweighs the risks.

One of the risks that has gotten a lot of attention with parents lately is a rare heart inflammation disease called myocarditis. Hackell said the few reported cases of myocarditis have been mild, and have mostly affected young men between the ages of 16 and 30.

“All of the patients have recovered without complication,” Hackell said. “I also point out however that the risk of myocarditis and other cardiomyopathies from COVID is far higher.”

Out of one million kids aged 16-17 who received the COVID-19 vaccine, there were 35 cases of myocarditis reported, according to data from clinical trials. In contrast, there were about 1,500 cases of myocarditis reported per million COVID-19 patients. That means kids are almost 43 times more likely to get the heart disease from COVID-19 than the vaccine that protects against it.

Broome County Health Director Mary McFadden said the health department is partnering with school districts, pharmacies and pediatricians not only to distribute vaccines but also to help parents and kids with their questions.

“I think it’s important that the parents are fully on board, and they’re able to communicate with their children the importance of this and just the fact that they’ve been getting vaccines, basically, since birth,” McFadden said.

McFadden said that it’s important for parents to seek answers to those questions from trustworthy sources, like their child’s pediatrician, school nurse or health officials.

“We’re making sure that we do our part in helping to educate and inform our community so that they get the correct information to make the right decision,” McFadden said.

New York State’s Medicaid system also approved an additional payment for doctors to help cover longer consultations that hesitant parents sometimes need to help address additional concerns over the COVID-19 vaccine.

McFadden said it’s good to ask questions, but letting kids get vaccinated will be the best line of defense to keep them healthy.