Some Parents Eager, Others Unsure as COVID-19 Shot Approved for Kids

By Sharon Bernstein

November 04, 2021

(Reuters) - As soon as Anna Weber Kneitel learned San Francisco Bay Area pharmacies had opened appointments for COVID-19 vaccines for young children, she booked the closest one she could find for her 7-year-old son.

But across the country in Michigan, Rachael LaPlante said she was planning to hold off on getting the shots for her 7-year-old son, despite being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 herself.

After months of anticipation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday gave the green light for health professionals to start administering the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE shot to children ages 5 to 11.

That left parents of roughly 28 million U.S. school-age kids facing the decision on Wednesday about how to proceed.

The authorization comes as children across the country are adjusting to in-person school attendance after more than a year of remote learning in some areas. Children currently represent more than 25% of U.S. infections and can transmit the virus to those around them.

But some adults who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 themselves are feeling more hesitant when it comes to doing the same for their young children.

"We have a group of parents who are so excited that they want us to give them a call as soon as we have the vaccine so they can make appointments ... and we have parents that are still questioning," said Dr. Kimberly Montez, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina.

Some parents have expressed concern about the lack of long-term data on the vaccine's effects on children under 12. Others question its necessity given that severe COVID-19 is much less common for that age group, although many children have been hospitalized during the recent Delta variant wave.

LaPlante, 41, worries about rare cases of heart inflammation linked to the vaccine, particularly in young men, even though health experts say the heart risks from contracting COVID-19 are far greater.

"I struggle with it," she said. "What if it turns out that there are long-term problems for boys?"

LaPlante and her husband, who works from their home in Rochester, Michigan, continue to observe social distancing and masking protocols to protect against infection.

She said their son, who is home-schooled, plays outside with friends and sees his cousins for baking parties and other organized events over video chat services.

For Kneitel, a 41-year-old physician, getting her son vaccinated - and her daughter as soon as she turns 5 next year - means the family can return to a more normal social life. She said she is eager for them to resume sports and ballet, as well as going to concerts and theater performances.

GROWING LESS HESITANT

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in August found that about a quarter of parents want their young children vaccinated "right away," with another quarter in the "definitely not" camp.

In interviews, pediatricians and public health experts said parents appear to be growing less hesitant as time goes on.

In Ellerslie, Georgia, Chrissie Jennette, 41, said she will get her three young sons vaccinated as soon as possible.

"I know there was concern that it was a quick rollout, but there was never a moment I was concerned," Jennette said.

But in the small Alabama city of Enterprise, Claire Deaton, 33, does not plan to make appointments for her children.

She has received a first COVID-19 shot, while her husband, a retired military pilot who now does training and is required to get vaccinated for work, so far has not. Both have had COVID-19 twice, and their children were never sick, she said.

Though her kids have received all of the regular childhood immunizations, Deaton said she does not see the COVID-19 vaccine as necessary for them so far.

"If things started changing and it was affecting more children, or if we had a huge outbreak in local schools, I would be more open to getting it," she said.

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