WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Palm Beach County pediatrician said there's been "great demand" in his office for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, and he's urging parents to get their kids inoculated.
Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine is now being administered in doctor's offices, pharmacies, and at local school district sites to children in the 5-to-11 age group after the FDA and CDC both signed off on the shots.
"It is an exciting milestone for us here as pediatricians to be able to have something in our tool kit to start fighting the pandemic," said Dr. Tommy Schechtman with Pediatric Partners.
Schechtman joined WPTV journalist Stephanie Susskind for a live discussion on the WPTV Facebook page Thursday afternoon to answers questions about the vaccine for children.
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Schechtman said he's seeing "quite a bit of excitement" from parents who can now get their kids vaccinated against the deadly virus. To meet that demand, Pediatric Partners is hosting vaccination clinics at two of its offices on Nov. 13 and 14.
"The best opportunity we have to return to normalcy for our children, our grandchildren, is to vaccinate," Schechtman said. "Our best, best tool is vaccination. That's the way we're going to overcome this and defeat this pandemic."
While Schechtman admitted that many parents and guardians are hesitant to give their child a newer vaccine, he said clinical trials on roughly 3,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 showed no serious or adverse side effects.
"The vaccine is safe. The benefits far outweigh any type of even theoretical risk to the child," Schechtman said. "We want to give every child, like we do with every vaccine, the best opportunity to succeed and to avoid vaccine-preventable diseases."
Schechtman said 1.8 million children nationwide between 5 and 11 have contracted COVID-19, 8,000 have been hospitalized, and 94 have tragically passed away.
While most cases are mild in children, Schechtman said some patients develop long-term effects, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can impact a child's heart.
Couple those risks with the mental health toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on children, Schechtman said the vaccine is the best way for kids to return to normalcy during such a volatile, uncertain time.
"This pandemic has had a major impact on children," Schechtman said. "As a pediatrician, we are seeing a rapid rise in patients presenting to us with mental health illness, whether it's anxiety, depression, agitation, sleeplessness. And we also know it's impacted their education."
When it comes to children under five, Schechtman said clinical trials are currently underway on infants six months and older, and he estimates the vaccine will be available for even younger children in early 2022.
"What we have to do to be able to protect our smaller children, our toddlers, our infants, is to ensure that everyone around them is vaccinated. That is the best way that we can protect them," Schechtman said. "The future is bright now that we can vaccinate our kids."