Many parents are hesitant, while others eager about a COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11

By: - October 26, 2021 2:01 pm

Doctor placing adhesive bandage on little girl’s arm after vaccination. Credit: Getty Images.

A Florida mom is eager to get her young daughter vaccinated against COVID-19 if federal health officials authorize it soon.

But another parent doesn’t feel the same about getting her elementary school-aged child a shot in the arm.

It’s a conundrum for families who face possible vaccinations for kids ages 5 to 11. The newest age group would be the next wave in the Biden administration’s push to vaccinate people against COVID-19.

Federal officials have begun meetings over the issue, starting Tuesday with a panel of vaccine experts expected to vote on whether the benefits of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine outweigh the risks for these youngsters. More steps will follow, but it’s possible that vaccines for that age group could begin as soon as Nov. 4.

Based on a national survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only about a third of parents are eager to get their young kids vaccinated against COVID-19 immediately.

According to a September survey from the KFF,  34 percent say they will get their children inoculated “right away,” while 32 percent say they will “wait and see” the results of the vaccine before getting their kids ages 5-11 vaccinated. In addition, 24 percent say “they definitely won’t get their 5-11 year-old vaccinated.”

Tranesia Walker, 29, is a graduate of Florida A&M University and living in Tallahassee, trusts that the COVID vaccines are as safe as other vaccines already mandated for schoolchildren and plans to get her daughter vaccinated immediately.

“Yes, I am getting my 9-year-old the COVID-19 vaccine,” Walker said in phone conversation with the Florida Phoenix. “My eldest daughter and I are vaccinated with no negative reactions.”

“I’ve entrusted the CDC with vaccinating my children for other viruses like measles , chicken pox, and polio…what’s the difference? The only reason it’s being questioned is because in this day in age the media is so accessible, which allows conspiracy theories to flow like a wildfire.”

Merissa Martin, a 36-year-old mother living in Orlando, doesn’t feel comfortable to get her kids vaccines. She questions “the safety of this particular vaccine,” Martin told the Phoenix in a phone interview.

Martin, who works in marketing, said she supports vaccines for other diseases but remains skeptical about getting her 11-year-old daughter vaccinated.

“The COVID-19 vaccine brings up contradictory emotions,” Martin said. “I am ‘pro-vax’ and have vaccinated all of my kids. However, I find myself asking the same question over and over; how did they develop this vaccine so quickly?”

“At the end of the day, the COVID vaccine is new and until they have thorough data, I will remain  apprehensive about this. The development speed leads me to believe that some corners have been cut. Given the speed and lack of testing in children can it really be considered safe for our children?”

Meanwhile, some pediatricians in Florida say parents are interested in vaccines for their 5-11 year-olds ahead of the holiday season, which may help families return to larger gatherings with loved ones for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Dr. Tom Lacy, director of Florida Primary Care at Nemours Children’s Health Medical, told the Phoenix that parents have expressed interest in getting the shots for their kids in that age group.

On September 20, Pfizer announced that clinical trials showed favorable results in safety and effectiveness for its vaccine used for children ages 5-11.

“Many parents do seem interested and excited to vaccinate their children in the hopes of getting back to normal before the upcoming holiday season,” Lacy said in an email. “We expect vaccine deliveries to start by the second week in November, but the initial deliveries may not reach all communities or all physician offices.”

Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, stressed the importance of getting schoolchildren vaccinated but didn’t say whether it should be mandated. Children in Florida are required to get several vaccinations before entering school and day care facilities to protect them against diseases including measles, Hepatitis B, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, chicken pox and others.

Parents can receive an exemption from the vaccination requirement for school-aged children for a medical reason or for religious purposes, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“We all want to get back to a normal, pre-COVID routine in our schools, and the vaccines are the best and surest way to do that,” Spar said in an email. “The more children and adults who can be protected from COVID, the better our chances of getting ahead of the virus. We encourage vaccination for anyone who is eligible.”

The Biden administration is already prepared to support vaccination for the nation’s “28 million children” in that age group, if they get the green light from both the FDA and the CDC, according to a press release from the White House. In Florida, there are around 1.6 million kids ages 5-11, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.

“I am excited because I think this will allow more children to be immunized…children have suffered beyond the pandemic, they have suffered mentally,” Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a pediatrician at the University of Florida Health in Jacksonville, said in a phone conversation.

“Many of them do get sick, they do get in the hospitals, and unfortunately some die,” he said.

Meanwhile, the doses for children between 5 and 11 will be different from vaccines approved for those 12 and older, as previously reported by the Phoenix. Smaller needles and doses will be given to children below age 12.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.