Local pediatrician on COVID-19 vaccines for kids

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Now that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisers voted to recommend emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11 parents have a lot of questions.

"This is an important thing for our community. These kids need to get back to school. It’s really, really, tough to teach five to 11-year-olds remotely, virtually," said Dr. Michael Pichichero, a Pediatrician with Rochester Regional.

Pichichero said the virus is taking a toll on local pediatricians.

"They’re exhausted, and the nurses are exhausted, and the staff are exhausted," Pichichero said "They’re beyond capacity and trying to take care of looking into possible COVID infections in five to 11-year-olds."

According to the CDC, there have been nearly 2 million symptomatic COVID cases in children ages five to 11. Eighty-three hundred of those cases required hospitalization, one-third ended up in the ICU and about 100 deaths have been reported.

Pfizer said its vaccine is almost 91% effective in preventing symptomatic cases in children. And Dr. Pichichero says he believes the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, especially for kids who are at high risk for a more severe infection.

"There is some concern for a rare myocarditis effect, an inflammation of the heart that may occur more often in boys than in girls. But that risk is in the range of like being struck by lightning. So that’s a pretty low risk," Pichichero said.

And like adults, Dr. Pichichero says even if a child has had COVID, it’s still recommended they get vaccinated.

"Very frequently, even with active infection, you don’t produce enough immunity to protect you from getting infected again. So receiving the vaccine is like insurance. I don’t want to take the chance that my immunity was good enough after getting the disease. I rather have the insurance of getting a vaccine to really boost my immunity out so it’s sustained protection for a long period of time," Pichichero said.