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VOICES: Don’t wait, vaccinate your keiki today

In early November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11. While this may seem like a long-awaited step on the journey to end the pandemic for some, the decision to vaccinate keiki is daunting for many parents.

According to a national survey, approximately one-third of parents plan to take a “wait-and-see” approach regarding vaccinations for their younger children — despite many of them being vaccinated themselves.

As a pediatrician with over 10 years of experience, I understand that parents naturally scrutinize medical decisions for their keiki, as it is their responsibility to keep them healthy and safe. However, it is precisely for this reason that they should consider their keiki’s vaccination appointment right away.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious illness, and everyone is at risk, no matter their age. This preventable disease is now one of the top 10 causes of death of children in the United States. Even in “mild” cases, children may suffer from a fever, persistent cough, sore throat, muscle aches and nausea that will prevent them (and others in your family) from going to school, seeing friends and gathering for the holidays.

Furthermore, the disease’s potential long-term effects could negatively impact academic performance and involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities. Long COVID symptoms in children, which can last for months, include brain fog, chronic fatigue, body aches, dizziness and breathlessness.

These symptoms and risks are reduced by taking the COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been thoroughly tested in clinical trials with thousands of children without any serious safety concerns. It is safe and it is free.

The Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 has the same active ingredients as the vaccine given to adults and adolescents, but at a lower dosage.

It does not give your child COVID-19. However, they may see some side effects as their body builds immunity, including pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, headache or fever. These will go away in a few days.

It is important to talk to your child about what to expect and explain why it is important that they get vaccinated. Children can get very sick from COVID-19 and are also more likely to spread the virus to others at home and school if unvaccinated. As we celebrate the holidays, we must protect every member of our family and community against COVID-19. Even one child sick with COVID-19 is one too many.

“Keiki no ka oi” is a common phrase in the community, especially amongst pediatricians. Let’s continue to live by this motto and prioritize our children’s health and wellbeing by scheduling their COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

As always, please talk with your child’s health-care provider if you have any questions or concerns. Pediatricians are there to keep your children healthy and provide medical guidance to parents. We are more than happy to provide you with the information you need.

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Bernard Riola, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician at Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation on Kaua‘i. He is passionate about keeping Kaua‘i’s keiki healthy and equipping parents with the knowledge they need to maintain healthy habits moving forward.
Source: The Garden Island

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