MEMPHIS, TENN. – With children as young as 12 able to get the COVID vaccine as soon as today, Miguela Caniza, MD MPH, Director of the St. Jude Global Infectious Diseases Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital today encouraged parents get their children vaccinated as soon as possible:
“Vaccinating children for COVID-19 is a key component to reaching the two-thirds threshold necessary to obtain herd immunity and stop the pandemic from continuing to spread and mutate,” said Dr. Caniza. “This week’s emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12 to 15 is an important step in helping to control this virus in a safe and effective way for a larger percentage of the population.”
When the coronavirus first emerged, Dr. Caniza urged her colleagues of infectious disease leaders from 24 countries who were gathering at St. Jude to set aside their agendas and immediately focus on the virus. Those discussions led to the establishment of a registry tracking COVID-19 in childhood cancer patients around the world. She and her colleagues were recently featured in the Commercial Appeal for their initial and continuing efforts to track the emergency of the novel coronavirus in children.
“Children and teenagers are highly mobile populations attending schools, sports, extracurricular activities and intersecting more often with various age groups including caretakers and older family members,” Dr. Caniza continued. “Because of the high percent of children and teenagers being asymptomatic or with minimal symptoms, most likely they will be effectively spreading during a very contagious period, and even more so, if they don’t follow the standard precautions (distancing, using masks and practicing hand hygiene).”
Dr. Caniza concluded, “The COVID virus has come to stay with us and our best defense against minimizing long-term impacts on our society is to achieve herd immunity. As the research continues to bear out the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccine use in children, it is likely these vaccines will become part of the current 14 routine vaccination in childhood.”
Dr. Caniza outlines three essential reasons why it is critical to achieve the ability to immunize children, even if most of the poor outcomes and deaths from COVID-19 have been seen in older adults:
- Children and teenagers can also become infected and some of them with serious disease. We are still learning about this infection and their consequences including those long term called the post-COVID conditions including long-COVID, multiorgan effects of COVID, and the effect of COVID treatment or hospitalization (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html#:~:text=Multiorgan%20effects%20can%20affect%20most,(MIS)%20and%20autoimmune%20conditions )
- Children and teenagers are highly mobiles attending schools, sports, and intersecting more often with various age groups including with their caretakers and older family members.
- Because of the high percent of children and teenagers being asymptomatic or with minimal symptoms, most likely they will be effectively spreading during a very contagious period, and even more so, if they don’t follow the standard precautions (distancing, using masks and practicing hand hygiene).
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