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The COVID-19 vaccine’s safety for children

Reporter: Nicole Lauren Writer: Joey Pellegrino

Your children could soon be eligible for vaccination, but now an emotional debate has risen among parents: Do you get your child vaccinated?

It seems some parents are hesitant, concerned about potential unknown side effects of the vaccine. One mom from Port Charlotte didn’t even want to be named or show her face on camera, afraid others would judge her decision.

“It’s a different story… with my parents, I was adamant that they get the vaccine,” the woman said. “But I think for my children, until we see a little bit more research and it’s proven that it’s something that is necessary, I think I’m going away.”

And she isn’t alone. Fellow mother Krystal Shepard says she has concerns as well, and doesn’t want her children to be “guinea pigs.”

“What’s going to happen 10 to 15 years from now? I don’t want to find out with my kids,” Shepard said. “I’m not opposed to other people feeling that they want this for their family and for themselves. I think this is the right for every person to choose for themselves what they want to put in their body. And I’m not opposed to other people taking it.”

Doctors told WINK News they can understand why some people may be hesitant to get the vaccine because of its quick rollout, but that a vast amount of resources, money and new technology allowed companies to mass-produce vaccine doses quickly and safely.

“The good thing is is that we can create vaccines quicker, it doesn’t take years and years because we have access to that technology,” said Dr. Rebekah Bernard with Gulf Coast Direct Primary Care. “But this technology really isn’t that new, it’s been around. This is just the first time it’s been able to be applied.”

After the COVID-19 vaccine, the mumps vaccine was the second quickest to be rolled out, taking around four years. A game-changer with these new vaccines (like Pfizer’s version, specifically) is the use of mRNA technology, which does not use the actual virus to teach the body how to fight against it. The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County hopes people feel more comfortable knowing that.

“We’re seeing a lot of folks coming in asking for the mRNA vaccines,” said Dr. Joseph Pepe, administrator for FDOH-Charlotte. “I think that’s been very popular, especially among parents, and with Pfizer now potentially going to 12 and up, I think that’s going to be a game-changer for our families.”

Pepe added that teenagers, specifically those 16 years old, are currently the median age for COVID-19 cases right now, so getting them vaccinated is key to to preventing further spread and pushing us closer to reaching herd immunity.

“Over the last week or so, we have seen probably a median age of, for pediatric cases, around 16 years old,” Pepe said. “We are seeing pediatric positivity increase over the last four to five weeks, so it’s now almost at 13%. That is concerning, because these kids live in multigenerational homes.”

The speed with which the COVID-19 vaccine was developed is also due in large part to preceding diseases, mainly HIV, SARS and Ebola. Scientists had been pursuing new strategies to develop vaccines for these other diseases for years, just waiting to apply their research. When COVID-19 arose, they plugged in the sequence for the novel coronavirus into their pre-existing vaccine platforms and were soon ready to go.