SAN ANTONIO – As the Food and Drug Administration moves toward authorizing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children between ages five and 11, University Health doctor Mandie Svatek broke down some common concerns parents might have about the shot.
Svatek, a pediatric hospitalist at University Health and associate professor at UT Health San Antonio, explained why authorization took longer with children, the extremely rare risk of myocarditis, and what medical conditions parents should consider before getting their child vaccinated.
She also discussed why she allowed her own daughter to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine clinical study.
The full video of Svatek’s Q & A can be watched in the video player above, but here are the highlights from her discussion:
Why has authorization for kids in this age group taken so long?
Svatek said officials wanted to receive more data to get reassurances there were no serious side effects for children receiving the vaccine beyond myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
“What the CDC and the FDA had to look at is ensuring that we didn’t have further adverse vaccine events associated with administering the vaccines before they gave that approval,” Svatek said.
Should parents be concerned about myocarditis with the COVID-19 vaccine?
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscles. Severe cases of it could be fatal, but they rarely occur and the condition is treatable by medical professionals. There have only been roughly 1,000 cases of it reported after the vaccine.
Svatek said the risk of myocarditis is extremely low.
“If you compare getting COVID in comparison to getting the vaccine, your risk of developing myocarditis is much higher associated with getting COVID than with the vaccine itself,” Svatek said.
If children don’t get as sick as adults, why should they be vaccinated?
When the pandemic first began, children were not as affected by the virus, with less than 1% of children accounting for hospitalizations, Svatek said.
That has changed with the delta variant.
“Since the Delta variant came in, I’ve had more children in the hospital and my colleagues have had more children in the hospital than we have seen over the past year and a half with COVID pneumonia,” Svatek said. “This can traverse to our younger population even we worry about her infant population being really adversely affected by COVID.”
Are there certain conditions or medical reasons parents should take into consideration before getting a younger child vaccinated?
If parents have any doubts due to their child’s health, they should talk to their pediatrician, Svatek recommends.
“The important thing is that you follow up with your pediatrician to ensure that this is the right time for a child receiving the vaccine,” Svatek said. “If they’re immunocompromised, then this may not be a good opportunity. It’s important to follow up especially if that child has other comorbidities to assure that they are the appropriate setup to receive the vaccine.”
What is the best way to explain the benefits of the vaccine to children, especially if they have heard a lot of negative talk about it from friends or other family members?
With misinformation abound, Svatek said it’s important to stick to the facts about what the vaccines do and it will protect them from infections.
Hesitant children may be more comfortable with vaccine knowing that it has been administered to millions of adults, Svatek said.
“That’s important for them to understand that this is also something that can protect them as well,” she said.
Talk about why you allowed your own daughter to participate in a clinical trial.
Svatek allowed her 13-year-old daughter to participate in a COVID-19 vaccination trial.
“I had to put trust in the science that I know and in how I use that science to take care of my patients,” Svatek said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that I was not afraid. I think ... there’s questions that aren’t completely answered (in a study), and so you need to either make that decision to wait for those answers, or you can contribute and be a part of science. We needed to explain those risks and benefits with her and so this became a group decision and an important decision that we were able to move forward and to get her vaccinated at the time.”
When the vaccine is approved for children, which is expected to come in late October or early November, Svatek said it is safe for the children to get the vaccine at the same time as all their other shots.