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Dr. Fauci’s Advice for Parents Unsure About Vaccinating Their Kids

Anthony Fauci, M.D., has words of advice for parents who aren’t sure yet if they should get their young kids vaccinated against COVID-19. Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an NPR interview on Monday that parents of younger kids should follow the numbers when making their personal decision about the first pediatric COVID-19 vaccine approved for kids under 12 in the U.S. 

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s official recommendation of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 last week, NPR host Mary Louise Kelly asked Dr. Fauci for his take on how parents who are still weighing the risks and benefits of vaccination for their newly eligible kids should think the decision through. “Well, first of all, we have to always respect when parents have questions, reasonable questions about this,” Dr. Fauci said. “And what you do is you take them to the data.”

Dr. Fauci cited evidence from the clinical trial studying the first COVID-19 vaccine for kids, which the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used in their decision-making about the first pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. “This is a study that very clearly showed a high degree of efficacy,” Dr. Fauci said. In the trial, which included about 3,100 children who received the vaccine and about 1,500 who received a placebo, vaccination was found to be nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic cases of COVID-19. “That is really very good for a vaccine,” Dr. Fauci said. He noted that the study found the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine also has a very good safety profile. 

Another key data point Dr. Fauci believes parents should consider is the prevalence of COVID-19 infections among children—and the real risks of serious illness, long-term effects, or death. “I would tell the parents [that] although it is less likely for a child to get a serious result from infection than an adult, particularly an elderly adult, it is not something that’s trivial with children,” Dr. Fauci said.

There have been about 1.9 million reported cases of COVID-19 in children ages 5 to 11 in the U.S., including approximately 8,300 hospitalizations and 100 deaths, according to Dr. Fauci. There have also been over 2,000 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children in U.S. children, “which can really be quite severe,” Dr. Fauci said. The rare but serious (and still poorly understood) syndrome can cause inflammation in a variety of body organs and systems, including the lungs, heart, kidneys, brain, digestive system, skin, and eyes, according to the CDC. 

Dr. Fauci also addressed another key question parents may have during his interview: Whether children who have already had COVID-19 still ought to be vaccinated. The added protective benefit of COVID-19 vaccination in kids who have already been infected can’t be demonstrated yet, since the FDA just authorized the two-dose mRNA vaccine. But based on mounting data on vaccinated adults, the answer is yes, as SELF has reported. 

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