GREENFIELD — It will be months before a COVID-19 vaccine is available to the masses, but local medical professionals are urging hesitant parents to get their kids vaccinated as soon as it is approved.
“I do have confidence in not only the vaccine industry, who follow very strict guidelines, but the FDA approval process,” Dr. Kevin Dahlman, Medical Director for Aurora Children’s Health said. “I would have all the confidence just like the safety of all vaccines. My children have taken all vaccines to the hilt with not one exception, including the yearly flu shot.”
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Dahlman says he and members of the American Association of Pediatrics are urging the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to approve more testing of the COVID-19 vaccines on children.
“The researchers have done a remarkable job,” Dahlman said. “But we’re lacking those studies on kids. We do need the studies that show the vaccine is safe for kids. Kids are not little adults. That’s just to say, if it works a certain way for adults, that it doesn’t extrapolate down to kids. You have to do due diligence and prove safety and efficacy in children. Their bodies work differently.”
Right now, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is testing kids as young as 12-years-old. Katelyn Evans, of the Cincinnati area, is participating in the trial.
“Any information they can get from me can help get a vaccine out sooner and help everyone out there,” Evans said. “I feel like I can do it.”
However, confidence in a vaccine is waning. A recent survey by Stat News and The Harris Poll shows just 58 percent of Americans would likely get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. That’s down from 69 percent in August.
Locally, some parents are hesitant to give their kids the vaccine.
“I would prefer to not have my kids to have it right away,” Kristen Brantner, a mother of 5 said. “I’d rather wait and see where it went as far as long-term effects. It’s a great idea but with the uncertainty of knowing exactly what it will do on my children, that’s where I’m kind of hemming and hawing over it.”
Brantner has taken the pandemic very seriously. Her family largely stays inside and doesn’t interact with anyone. She says she is the only person who goes shopping for the family and sanitizes the items she brings inside the home, as well as washing her hands and clothes. Her kids also received all of their typical vaccinations as children. They’ve even gotten the flu shot in the past, although they don’t any longer.
She wants the pandemic to end just as much as anyone. But she says she will continue following CDC protocols until she gets more information on the long-term impacts of any COVID-related vaccine.
“I actually would rather wait a good year to two years to see what the outcome would be for people who initially took it,” Brantner said. “Definitely, after we know that it is 100 percent safe. I guess that’s my big thing. Side effects are key.”
Dr. Dahlman says it’s a risk-benefit analysis, but he believes the vaccine will be well worth it after testing is completed.
“In my mind, we need to start to test children to achieve safety and efficacy of these vaccines in confidence so we can say, we’re good to go,” Dr. Dahlman said. “Could there be some unforeseen risk? Absolutely. But there is with everything.”
Despite doctors saying kids tend to have less severe cases of COVID-19, Dr. Dahlman says the vaccine is imperative to us getting through the pandemic. Because kids are just as likely as anyone to transmit the virus, he says they need to be vaccinated to prevent spreading the virus further.
“Children represent a large enough population,” Dr. Dahlman said. “They’re certainly able to carry and transmit the virus. Due to that, we’re going to have to be able to vaccinate children to reach that herd immunity level. To achieve herd immunity in the population, you need immunity at about 60 to 70 percent of individuals. The sooner we roll out, the sooner we can achieve herd immunity. We’ll cut down on the pandemic but to get to that point, it will take us a little while yet.”
Various companies are still testing vaccines so it could still be some time until it is available to the masses. Healthcare workers, high-risk patients, and other frontline employees would likely be first in line to get the vaccine before other adults. Dr. Dahlman believes kids could start getting the vaccine as soon as next summer or fall.
In the meantime, Dr. Dahlman encourages parents to keep doing what they’ve been doing with their kids. That means children, over the age of two-years-old, keep wearing masks and social distancing.
He also says, if there is one habit to take away from this pandemic, it’s thorough handwashing.
“Handwashing should be forevermore,” Dr. Dahlman said. “We want to encourage our kids to wash those hands consistently throughout the day. That’s the number one for transmission for viruses and bacteria and all sorts of nasty microbes in our culture. We’ve got to stay strong.”