Pediatricians answer parents' top questions on COVID vaccine for children

One doctor said parents are asking about the possibility of rare side effects, such as heart inflammation or myocarditis.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- California will soon require all students in both public and private schools to get the COVID-19 vaccine once the shot is fully authorized by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for different age groups.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new emergency order on Friday. The vaccine will now join a list of 10 other vaccinations required for children to attend school in the state.

Experts are hoping the vaccine for kids will be available by Halloween, but even if that timeline gets pushed back, it's expected to be authorized and available sometime in November. However, many parents have questions about its safety and possible side effects.

While children are less likely to get severe COVID illnesses, hundreds are admitted into hospitals daily.

In Ohio, pediatric ICUs are filled.

"We're seeing an increase in our census that's been astronomical," said Will Andres, a charge nurse at Dayton's Children's Hospital. "It's pretty hard to keep our heads above water, day in and day out."

Meanwhile, a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds many parents of young children won't be in a rush get a pediatric COVID vaccine.

The survey shows about a third of parents who participated said they'll vaccinate their children, ages five to 11, "right away" once the vaccine is authorized. But another third of parents say they want to wait and see.

Seven percent of parents said they will only vaccinate their children if it's required and 24% said "definitely not."

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"I would say to parents who are questioning, or feel a little uncertain, is that ... that's normal," said Dr. Lee Savio Beers, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. John Rodarte, a pediatrician with Huntington Health Physicians, said the parents he's spoken with range from excited about the vaccine to cautious and concerned.

"I have a lot of families that are really looking forward to that," he said. "But on the other hand, there are also those that are, as I said, skeptical, and they're worried. They're concerned. They're not necessarily anti-vaccination people, but they're concerned, because they feel the newness of this."

Rodarte said many parents ask about the very rare side effects such as heart inflammation or myocarditis.

"Although we haven't seen all the data yet, preliminary stuff has said that the younger children in the five to 11 group were not seeing the myocarditis," he said.

Other parents are concerned about adding COVID shots to the mix of routine vaccinations. Rodarte said new data shows mRNA vaccines for children can be given safely with routine vaccines.

His advice? Speak to your child's pediatrician or talk to your family physician. Rodarte said the more information you can get from someone who you trust, the better.

Meanwhile, Savio said the benefits of Pfizer's COVID vaccine outweigh the risks, but safety is always the top priority.

"We always take a double look at everything," said Beers. "But I absolutely anticipate that we will recommend it for children ages five to 11 as well."

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