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As we type, the FDA is hearing expert opinion about the safety of COVID vaccines for 5 to 11 years olds, and if all goes well, the CDC may approve the Pfizer vaccine for that age group in early November. But why do kids need this vaccine, and is it safe? Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the the National Institutes of Health, appeared this morning on Good Morning America to discuss just that. Read on for five life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Virus Expert Said Vaccinating Kids 5 to 11 Would be a "Significant Step" Forward
Will vaccines for 5 to 11 year olds help end the pandemic? "Don't we all hope so?" said Collins. "Yes. I think that's right. These are after all kids who can get infected. Sometimes they can get pretty sick. Pediatric ICUs have lots of kids of this age right now. So we want to provide them with as much protection as possible. And they also are capable of spreading this to others. So if we can create a situation where more of these kids are not getting infected, we should be able to drive this pandemic down, which is what we really hope to do. Even as we face the cold weather and other concerns about whether we might see another surge, we don't want that. And this would be one significant step forward in getting our country really in a better place."
Virus Expert Said Kids Could Get Ill or Have "Long COVID"
Hesitant to vaccinate your kids? "I totally understand that," said Collins. "And I think parents need to be listened to. They're usually pretty smart about their kids, and I think there'll be a lot of conversations going on between parents and pediatricians about this very issue, but one shouldn't actually discount the fact that kids can get pretty sick with COVID-19. Sadly more than 700 children have died of COVID. Since this pandemic began, kids can also get the long COVID consequences, even though they might not have a severe case. It turns out some of them just don't seem to recover. They have the fatigue, the brain fog makes it hard to function in school. So that's another reason to try to provide the protection. And of course the big question is, is it safe? And the data that will be discussed today by this FDA advisory committee looks really good."
Virus Expert Said the Vaccine for Kids Looks Safe
"It still is the case that lots of kids are getting infected, especially with Delta, because it is so contagious," said Dr. Collins. "That's one more reason why I think it's going to be difficult to, in many instances, to keep schools completely open. So dealing with the vaccination as a means of preventing that is going to be a good step forward. Again for a parent, trying to figure out benefits versus risks, parents have dealt with other vaccinations for other diseases. This one, in terms of the data and the data is all public. It looks really good. The effectiveness—Pfizer said 91% protection against symptomatic disease. And the safety record looks really good, using about one third, the dose that you would for an adult, you get a really good immune response."
Virus Expert Said Here's How to Celebrate the Holidays
"I think Halloween ought to be a lot of fun," said Collins. "Most of that's going to be outside, which is good. And then Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah coming up again. I think a lot of families right now trying to figure out if we're going to have a gathering, should we have some limits on being inside unless everybody's vaccinated. Let's be careful about that. Another thing to think about is now these over the counter home tests are increasingly available. That's another thing families are considering doing before getting together for the holidays. Maybe everybody get a test and make sure you're not the one who's carrying this virus without realizing it. That would be an added level of protection. But I think we're all kind of ready to celebrate again and be with our families. I'm hoping to do that with mine."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.