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Local doctors answer questions about COVID-19 vaccine rollout for kids under 12


MADISON, Wis.– In anticipation of the news that Pfizer’s COVID vaccine will soon be approved for kids as young as 5, the White House is instructing governors to get ready. The Biden administration has already purchased 65 million pediatric doses of the vaccine, which an estimated 28 million kids between the ages of 5 and 11 will likely become eligible for by the end of the month.

Locally, doctors are preparing to administer tens of thousands of doses and answer just as many questions.

We with SSM Health’s Dr. David Ottenbaker to answer a few.

Q: What is the most common question you expect parents will have about the vaccine?

A: I think there are two. Parents will want to know how safe the vaccine is and how effective it is. Those are appropriate questions to have. We are ready to answer those questions in our clinics and we have more information from the CDC on our website.

Q: Where will parents be able to take kids to get their shots?

A: We’re trying to recommend ‘MyChart’ scheduling. Once it gets approved by the FDA, CDC, and the state health department, we will be able to supply that vaccine during normal operations. We will have pop-up clinics, and we will have the vaccine available in all of our ambulatory settings that take care of pediatric children.

Q: Is there anything parents can/should do today in terms of scheduling an appointment?

A: Yes, parents can sign up for the proxy on ‘MyChart’ right now, which is the important piece. Once they get the proxy on their children’s online chart, when the vaccine becomes available, they will be able to schedule that appointment online.

(SSM Health Communications Consultant Lisa Adams added that parents will be able to call the vaccine scheduling line as well. Scheduling will not be available for kids ages 5-11 until final approvals are made.)

Q: How much of a say should parents give their kids in regards to the vaccine and what information should they share with them?

A: Any time a medical decision is made, of course you want it to be age appropriate and you want to involve your children in the decision-making process. First, try to demystify the vaccine. Talk about how safe and efficacious it is. It’s ultimately a parental decision based on the age of their child and what they can understand, but we would encourage parents to involve them in decision-making.

Q: Where is the best place to find out more information about the vaccine?

A: We have on frequently asked information and questions on our website. But again, we always recommend if parents or children want a more face-to-face conversation about the COVID-19 vaccine, they can see their pediatrician to have that discussion.

Q: Once children are vaccinated, will they be able to safely remove their masks?

A: That’s the million dollar question. I don’t know how we can answer that right now. We know masks work. We also know, regardless of what happens with the delta variant and new variants, vaccines are effective and why we recommend everyone gets one.

According to Children’s Wisconsin, the statewide hospitalization rate for kids with COVID hit an all-time high the last week of September. Doctors now report cases in the state are flattening. Data shows, during the week of Oct. 3, more than 3,000 kids 17 & under were infected with the virus.

Vaccines are currently available for everyone 12 & up. They are safe, free, and easy-to-find. Click here to make your appointment today.