Michigan health agency, doctors urge COVID vaccine for kids

Top state health officials, pediatricians and vaccine advocates on Wednesday urged parents to get Michigan’s 825,000 children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated against COVID-19, as appointments began opening after the U.S. gave the final signoff to Pfizer’s kid-size shots.

More than 450 children under age 12 are becoming infected with the coronavirus each day in the state. The risk of severe disease and death is low in young children. But experts said there is no way to know how serious an individual case will be, saying vaccinations are the way out of the pandemic.

“Yesterday’s decision will help move us forward towards safer classrooms, family gatherings, participation in sports, celebrations and all kinds of other milestones,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive. She said one of the biggest benefits of the vaccine will be fewer students quarantining and missing classes due to outbreaks.

Pharmacies, local health departments and other providers have begun receiving the doses, which are a third of the amount given to teens and adults. The 5- to 11-year-olds will receive two shots, three weeks apart.

Dr. Matthew Hornik, a pediatrician in West Bloomfield and president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said about one-third of the 8,300-plus kids in that age group in the U.S. who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 required intensive care.

“Our goal for our patients is to promote health and do what we can to prevent infection and illness. And we know what has worked for decades and continues to work. And that’s vaccines,” he said. “The benefits of the vaccine greatly outweigh the risks.”

State officials did not estimate how many children ages 5 to 11 may get the shots. About 62% of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, below the 68% figure nationwide. Roughly 38% of kids 12 to 15 have been fully vaccinated since becoming eligible nearly six months ago.

Some counties’ school masking requirements are set to end a certain amount of time after vaccines are available to children in kindergarten through fifth grade, typically 45 or 60 days later.

“We are tremendously excited to be able to provide this next wave of vaccines to younger children. … Vaccinating just one child has the potential to save many lives,” said Mary Wisinski, immunizations supervisor for the Kent County Health Department.  (AP)

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