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3 Northeast Ohio doctors weigh in on questions surrounding COVID-19 vaccines for young kids

While COVID vaccines are available for children as young as six months old, some families still have questions about the shots.

CLEVELAND — Children as young as six months old are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines after both the FDA and CDC gave the green light late last week. Children can either receive three doses of the Pfizer vaccine, or two doses of the Moderna vaccine.

However, some families still have questions about the vaccines, including whether or not their children should get vaccinated. 3News spoke to three doctors in Northeast Ohio to get answers to frequently asked vaccine questions.

Is one vaccine better than the other?

"The most basic answer is the vaccine that’s available to you is the one that I would recommend right now,” said Dr. Adam Keating, a pediatrician with the Cleveland Clinic. “They’re both very safe and effective, particularly against severe illness.”

Keating noted that the Pfizer vaccine at this time has slightly higher efficacy than Moderna, but said both are very good.

Dr. Kevin Turner, Senior Medical Director at UH Rainbow Primary Care Institute, pointed out the different timelines with both vaccines, but said both were "very effective."

“It takes a little bit longer to administer, but it’s a lower dose, so there may be less side effects,” Dr. Turner said of the Pfizer vaccines. “The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose series, and it takes about four weeks to fully administer, there’s four weeks in between it. So it can be a little bit faster to administer, which may get protection a little more, it is a little bit higher dose.”

Dr. Turner said because the Moderna dose is a bit higher, it may lead to the potential of greater side effects, though he called the side effects mild.

What would side effects of the vaccines be?

“The side effects are really the same side effects as the adults have seen,” said Dr. Shelly Senders, founder and CEO of Senders Pediatrics. Senders Pediatrics also conducted clinical trials.

“Fever, fatigue, achiness are some of the side effects. Headache has been seen in a fair number, ten to fifteen percent,” Dr. Senders said.

Dr. Senders added that he found patients who were well-hydrated and drank products with electrolytes the day before and day of the shot were likely to have fewer side effects.

Dr. Keating and Dr. Turner said side effects would be similar to the side effects associated with most any vaccines. They also mentioned that a rare but serious side effect of inflammation around the heart was not seen in this youngest age group. Instead, when it’s been seen, it has most often been in teens.

Little kids already have so many vaccines – where would this one fit into the vaccine regimen, and is it safe to get yet another vaccine?

“Yes, this vaccine can be given alongside our standard pediatric vaccines. Particularly as we think about our infants who, at six months would be the earliest they can get the COVID vaccines, we routinely give immunizations at that age,” said Dr. Keating. “I really don’t have concerns about an increased risk for safety around these vaccines combined with the other ones.”

“The COVID vaccine is safe to give, and it’s safe to give in conjunction with any other vaccines that we have,” said Dr. Turner.

Is it worth getting these young children vaccinated if we know the efficacy of these vaccines is lower than those for adults? 

Dr. Senders compared the COVID vaccine to the influenza vaccine, citing 200 influenza deaths in children in 2019, and tens of thousands of deaths in adults.

“The real question is, should every child get a flu vaccine? And the answer is if you’re one of those 200, you’d really feel horrible about not getting a flu vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Turner said that evidence indicates vaccines can decrease the potential risk for long COVID syndrome, and called the vaccine a “very important thing to give.”

“Definitely would want to make sure people strongly consider and get this vaccine,” Dr. Turner said. “It will help to continue with our moving towards getting back to a more normal life with our schools and activities, and that’s the primary goal.”

“These vaccines are still remarkably effective, and if we looked back to our goals when we first started created vaccine, we would have all been thrilled if they had vaccines that were 50% effective at preventing COVID,” said Dr. Keating. “It just turns out that the adult vaccines are really, really, really good. And these vaccines are still really good at preventing serious illness in the infections, and pretty darn good at any illness, certainly more than zero, which is what you get with no vaccine.”

How can my child get vaccinated?

All three doctors advised calling your doctor's office/healthcare provider or accessing a patient portal, if available, to schedule an appointment, with the goal being to administer shots later this week. 

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