UVM physician assures parents that COVID vaccine for young teens is safe


BURLINGTON, Vt. (WFFF) — Nearly 60% of Vermont’s eligible BIPOC population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Several organizations want to keep up this momentum.

On Wednesday, Vermont’s Health Equity Initiative and Vermont Professional of Color Network raised awareness about upcoming BIPOC clinics in Burlington. They are available for those 12 and older.

During the pandemic, VHEI and VPCN have provided COVID-19 education and resources to BIPOC Vermonters. To ease parents’ concerns, a University of Vermont Medical Center’s Dr. Benjamin Lee, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, spoke about the shot, which he strongly recommends.

“I’m certainly pro-vaccine,” Lee said. “My mission is to try and help all of our children live long, happy, and healthy lives.”

But some are experiencing vaccine hesitancy. “I’m very nervous about my kids getting it, just because they’ve had upper respiratory problems when they were younger,” said Winooski mother Sarah Durkee. “They’ve had asthma. They’re slowly growing out of it,”

Dr. Lee says all three versions of the vaccine are safe and effective. However, Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one authorized for those as young as 12. “These are probably going to be the most closely scrutinized vaccines in history,” he said.

While the risk of getting the virus itself is low for Vermont children, the state has severe cases in children. “It does appear that children can get this so-called long-haul COVID syndrome,” Lee said. “And as we saw previously, children have this very rare complication called multi-system inflammatory syndrome.”

Kamaya Coleman is a young Vermonter who is seven months away from her 12th birthday. While she’s not old enough just yet, she says she wants the shot. “I hope, like, sometime we can take off our mask and have freedom,” said Kamaya Coleman.

Dr. Lee says the vaccine would allow exactly that. “It gives us a lot more freedom, we can see our friends, we can see our loved ones without worrying about catching Covid or transmitting it to someone else,” he said.

Sarah Durkee says she’s nervous about the side effects. “I know my body can handle it more than they can. And if something were to occur, how do I handle that?” 

Dr. Lee says children will experience similar side effects as adults, but says they are short lived. He says the shots are our main shot out of this pandemic. “I sincerely believe that we can’t get back to that point until we can get as many people vaccinated, and that includes our kids,” he said.

Lee also says it’s likely Pfizer will be the first shot to be offered to kids younger than twelve. He says he expects that decision by September.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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