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Doctors to begin giving COVID vaccines to kids under age 5

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 7:51 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2022 at 7:52 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Pediatricians can begin giving the COVID-19 vaccine to kids as young as six months this week, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

On Friday the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control greenlighted vaccines for children under age 5.

“The COVID-19 vaccines have saved thousands of lives in Louisiana,” said Dr. Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s Health Officer.

Dr. Mark Kline has been vocal about the need for vaccines for younger children and he could not be happier that it has come to pass.

“It’s been a long wait, too long but I’ll take it. It’s great to finally have two safe and effective COVID vaccines to give to kids under the age of five.

“This particular population, the very youngest kids have been particularly hard hit. The rates of infection in that under-five age group are about the same as they are in middle-age adults,” said Kanter.

The authorization for vaccines for young kids comes as Louisiana is seeing COVID-19 cases rise. And the virus has sickened many young kids.

LDH recommends that all eligible children receive the vaccine.

“Children under five are at a higher risk for hospitalization for COVID-19 than are for older children,” said Kanter.

Kline says vaccines are a critical tool in the fight against COVID.

“We know that these vaccines are safe, we know that they can protect against severe disease and death and so I’m just thrilled to finally have a tool that we can use to keep kids safe and I know for a lot of moms and dads out there this day has been anticipated for a long, long time,” said Kline.

But some parents remain skeptical and have said they will not get their kids vaccinated.

“There are parents out there who are skeptical or hesitant, they’re worried that the vaccine hasn’t been around for long enough, that there’s not sufficient experience, there’s not long-term safety data and I think really it’s on us as pediatricians to share the data that we have with parents and convince them hope that no corners have been cut, the FDA and the CDC have done their jobs,” said Kline.

FOX 8 asked Kanter why the virus is harder on younger kids compared to older children.

“Younger kids typically have a small margin of error, in the simplest terms, of when they get sick and illnesses can progress quicker and younger kids particularly less than a year can go from quite healthy to quite ill very rapidly,” he said.

More than 20 children have died from the virus in Louisiana.

“We’ve seen a number here at Children’s Hospital New Orleans who been hospitalized, who’ve been in the intensive care unit, some unfortunately who’ve died and across Louisiana 21 have died of COVID,” said Kline.

And with younger kids, parents have a choice of which vaccine they want to be administered.

“The regimens are slightly different. The Moderna shot is a two-shot primary series, the Pfizer is a three-shot primary series. The timing of when the shots are given is a little bit different,” said Kline.

LDH has published a list of vaccine providers who ordered the vaccine on its website: ldh.la.gov/kidsvax

Kanter is not pleased with the level of vaccinations in the state among kids age 5 and up.

“I’m not satisfied with the vaccination rates in general, so right now only 17% of kids 5 to 11 have had their first dose, only 47% of kids 12 to 17 have had their first dose. I think that’s too low; I think that leaves family and kids vulnerable,” he said.

Louisiana is experiencing its sixth surge of COVID cases.

“I had hoped that the numbers were plateauing or even coming down, but I’d just gotten the virus data for Children’s Hospital New Orleans just in the past hour and our test positivity rate is actually up this week to about 14% for COVID,” said Kline.

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