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Doctor explains why parents shouldn’t wait to vaccinate their kids

Now that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in kids as young as 12, Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel says parents should consider vaccinating their children “as soon as possible.”

The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds on Monday, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying on Wednesday that it could be immediately administered to the age group. Vaccinations started as early as Thursday. President Biden hailed the move as “one more giant step in our fight against the pandemic.”

The authorization came after studies indicated that the Pfizer vaccine is as effective in young adolescents as it is in adults. “That means almost a hundred percent prevention of death, severe hospitalization and all the things you worry about as a parent,” Patel said.

According to the FDA, in the clinical trial for this age group, no cases of COVID-19 occurred among 1,005 children who received the Pfizer vaccine, and 16 cases of COVID-19 occurred among 978 of those in the placebo group. The agency concluded that the immune response in adolescents was as good as the immune response of the older participants and that “the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19.”

Some parents worry about the vaccines because they came to market so recently. But Patel says they rely on tried and trusted technology. “The technology has been decades in development,” she said. “We use [mRNA] for cancer treatments, and a number of other vaccine research.”

There are also many misconceptions about how the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work, Patel said. The mRNA vaccines, such as those created by Pfizer and Moderna, use messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) to stimulate an immune response that can protect against future infection. Once it delivers the instructions to your cells, the mRNA breaks down and disappears from the body.

Contrary to rumors and falsehoods spreading online, the COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility. “You’re using your own body’s natural cells. There is no interference with the DNA in your body, no impact on future body DNA, fertility, the ability to conceive and pregnancies,” Patel added.

And while COVID-19 tends to be far more dangerous to older people, getting children and young adults vaccinated is particularly important given their role in spreading disease to more vulnerable individuals. It is also essential to stop the virus from mutating, and to boost the level of immunity in the population, thus reducing hospitalizations and deaths.

Patel says since more adults are receiving the vaccine, “a growing number of new cases are in children” because “the virus has nowhere else to go but into kids.”

According to CDC data presented at the advisory panel’s meeting on Wednesday, kids aged 12 to 17 accounted for 9 percent of COVID-19 cases reported in April to the agency.

Furthermore, in an interview with NPR, Dr. Sean O’Leary of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that COVID-19 has been one of the leading causes of death among children since the start of the pandemic. Around 300 to 600 children have died of the disease.

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 13: Nurse Maureen Stevens administers a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Caleb Matthew Laing, 12, at Harborview Medical Center on May 13, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The hospital began vaccinating children aged 12-15 following approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)SEATTLE, WA - MAY 13: Nurse Maureen Stevens administers a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Caleb Matthew Laing, 12, at Harborview Medical Center on May 13, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The hospital began vaccinating children aged 12-15 following approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Nurse Maureen Stevens administers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Caleb Matthew Laing, 12, at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Thursday. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Another reason why parents should consider vaccinating their children, Patel says, is because although they are less likely to have severe cases of the illness, some children have developed serious complications. In addition to that, young people may also experience “long COVID.” Some case studies have indicated that children could experience long‐term effects similar to adults after contracting the disease.

“We do not know what the long-term impact of COVID is. So any time we see something that could have long-term effects and we have an actual vaccine that can prevent those, almost close to a hundred percent, it is to me a really hard argument against not getting vaccinated,” she said.

Patel says parents should also consider vaccinating their children because otherwise they may be restricted from normal activities — including returning to school.

Some colleges and universities are already requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for students returning to campus this fall. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that two universities, the State University of New York and the City University of New York, will require proof of vaccination for all students who plan to take in-person classes.

Now that there is a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in younger kids, Patel says, their schools may also adopt the same guidelines.

“You could imagine a fall semester where there is a requirement, like some places require a flu shot, proof of hepatitis, measles or meningitis vaccines. This could just be one of a series of things that you need to have,” she said.

The Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12-15 will soon be available at pharmacies and pediatricians’ offices across the U.S. The Biden administration said earlier this month that it was ready to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country ready to vaccinate adolescents, as well as ship the vaccines to pediatricians.

Finally, Patel says families should at least talk to their pediatricians about vaccinating their children — if only because the vaccines will help kids get back to their regular lives.

“I think until children have vaccinations available to them, there will be a requirement to wear masks. Having a proof of vaccination, or being a part of a group that’s vaccinated, might be a way to take back some of those restrictions that people are finding pretty restrictive right now.”

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