Coronavirus, Education

Emory infectious diseases expert: COVID-19 vaccine is safe for young kids

Emory infectious diseases professor Zanthia Wiley says Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 is safe and effective.
Emory infectious diseases professor Zanthia Wiley says Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 is safe and effective.
Credit Atlanta Public Schools
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Children ages 5-11 can now get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. It’s a two-shot series given three weeks apart. Emory infectious diseases professor Zanthia Wiley says she understands why parents may have concerns about the shot, but says thousands of children participated in the trials and the vaccine is safe and effective.

“If you have the choice of giving your child the vaccine or having to take the chance of your child contracting COVID, the outcomes from COVID itself are definitely worse than any side effect they may have from the vaccine,” Wiley said.

Wiley said although the likelihood of death from COVID is lower for children than for older adults, they could still suffer long-term effects like fatigue and shortness of breath if they get the virus. She also said parents should assure their children who may have seen them get sick or react to their own Covid vaccines.

“What I would tell my child is, ‘Yes, your arm may be sore and yes, you may feel a little achy for a couple of days, but it will not last any longer than that, and also what this will do is help you be able to get to school safely go back to your activity safely,’” she said.

Wiley also clarified which groups of people qualify for COVID-19 booster shots.

“We recommend getting a booster if you are over 65 years old, irrespective of whether you had other health problems,” she said. “If you are over 50 with other illnesses like diabetes, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, then you should go ahead and get your booster.”

Wiley said those who are 18 years or older and live in a long-term facility like a group home or a nursing facility also qualify for booster shots. She says it’s ok to mix and match, so for example, if you received a Pfizer vaccine initially, it’s safe to get a Moderna booster.

Most importantly, Wiley said, there’s one message she wants to make sure to get across.

“The people are who are still getting sick from COVID right now are mostly the unvaccinated,” she said. “So we’re talking a lot about boosters, and yes, I want everyone to get to get boosters, but if you are out there and you have not received your initial series, I highly recommend that you receive your COVID vaccine.”

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