ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As Omicron spreads, under 15% of 5 to 11-year-olds in New York are fully vaccinated, while 25% have gotten at least one shot. The vaccine for this age group was only approved in early November, but pediatricians are encouraging more families to get their kids vaccinated, especially as the Omicron variant spreads.
Nicole Cifra, MD, MPH, an Adolescent Medicine Fellow at URMC, said pediatricians saw early on that kids weren’t as affected as adults from COVID, but she said they aren’t unaffected either.
“We’re still seeing significant mortality from COVID-19 in children. This past week, the AAP data from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that 38 kids died of COVID-19 in the last week in only those 45 states that report COVID-19 deaths in children,” Cifra said.
Even if the majority of children will not get severely ill from COVID-19, pediatricians warn they can still spread the virus to others.
“They can spread it to a more vulnerable population, like grandparents and great grandparents. So even though they may be relatively less ill with a disease, they can give it to somebody who is at more risk for developing a severe illness,” said Dr. Edward Lewis, General Pediatrician in Brighton.
Since early November, Dr Lewis said he been administering the vaccine to children in his practice. He said because he’s a sole practitioner, he often has higher vaccine rates than state or national numbers.
“The 5 to 11-year-old group has been wonderful. We have exceeded my expectations in terms of families that would be early adopters of a vaccine or get it in the first round. To date, we have given about 480 doses out, we have immunized a good number of kids with second doses already,” Dr. Lewis said.
The dose for 5 to 11-year-olds is one-third the size of the doses given to those over 12. It also comes in a smaller needle.
“The kids are have really tolerated it quite well and I think anybody who has got any kind of hesitancy because they’re worried that their kids are gonna get really sick from the vaccine can feel assured that it’s a very safe vaccine,” Dr. Lewis said.
Lewis adds the major side effect he has seen has been a sore arm or a mild fever.
Dr. Larry Denk, a pediatrician with Rochester Regional Health, said they have also seen a good number of children coming in the last few weeks to get the shot.
“We haven’t had kids coming back with fevers or sick,” he said. “Maybe it’s because the lower dose, maybe it’s because they’re just… children are different, like you said, more resilient. I’m not sure. We haven’t seen much in the way of bad side effects at all,” Denk said.
Last week, cases among kids in the U.S. rose 26% according to AAP. With Omicron spreading, Dr. Denk hopes more kids will get the shot.
“This one is certainly more contagious. It may not be worse as far as severity goes, we’re seeing a lot of kids getting it and again, occasionally, there’s a child who gets it who was quite sick with it,” said Denk said.
If parents have any questions about the vaccine, pediatricians are making themselves available.
“My style is to kind of figure out what the barriers are, what questions I can answer. And I think it’s important to frame the conversation in a way that reflects risk/benefit analysis,” Cifra said. “We know that there’s no risk-free choice in this world to do anything, but we know that the risks of COVID-19 disease are way above anything that we’re concerned about with a vaccine, so the vaccine is certainly the safer option.”
Cifra added many pediatricians she knows have already gotten their kids vaccinated, something that she hopes can provide parents with some peace.
“I think that’s very telling because we know that these vaccines are safe and effective and the pediatricians are doing everything that they can to protect not only their patients, but their own children as well,” Cifra said.
Currently only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for 5 to 11-year-olds. If you’re interested in signing up for a vaccine in Monroe County, you can click here for more information.