James Lopez got his COVID-19 shots as soon as he could, starting the vaccination process in March after an infection earlier in the year gave him a first-hand look at how scary the virus could be.
He’s taking a different approach with his three sons.
Almost two months after the Food and Drug Administration said 12- to 15-year-olds could receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, his 14-year-old son Jaiden got his first shot. Jaiden received his second shot in early August, Lopez said.
Lopez also wants to ease into the process for his 5- and 8-year-old boys.
“I’m a firm believer in science, but I would still like to wait,” Lopez, a 41-year-old New York City resident, told MarketWatch. Though Lopez said he hates to put it like this, “I want to see how it affects other kids first, how it runs its course.”
Even though doctors say there is a greater risk of spreading the coronavirus to those who already have the vaccine if you are unvaccinated, Lopez said he’d do “anything to keep them safe, but I can’t just be the first in line.”
On Monday morning, elementary school-age kids became now one step closer to vaccination eligibility when Pfizer
announced the vaccine is safe and well tolerated by the 5- to 11-year-old demographic.
The companies said they plan to share the data with the FDA and other regulators as soon as possible — especially since the delta variant is fueling a surge in all cases and a surge in children’s cases particularly.
“Since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 240% in the U.S. — underscoring the public-health need for vaccination,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO said in a statement.
“These trial results provide a strong foundation for seeking authorization of our vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, and we plan to submit them to the FDA and other regulators with urgency,” he added.
On Friday, an FDA panel recommended a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people ages 65 and people with high-risk conditions. The panel voted against a third shot for the general public.
Earlier this month, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a vaccine for kids under 12 could roll out to the public by the end of the year.
But as the companies and public-health officials estimate when vaccines will become available for kids, they better account for parents like Lopez — and at least some polls suggest there’s a lot of them.
‘Wait and see’
A sizable minority — 4 in 10 parents of children ages 5 to 11 — say they’ll take a “wait and see” approach before they have their children vaccinated, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Another 26% will do it “right away,” while 25% say they will “definitely not” make their children get the shots. Nine percent said their child would only get the shot if required, according to the poll conducted from mid-July to early August.
These attitudes track the general views of the COVID-19 vaccine for all age groups, said Ashley Kirzinger, associate director for public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
With the prospect of vaccination coming, there’s a quick-moving population and a resistant population, but there’s the plurality that want to see others take the leap first.
“As they are seeing friends, family members, kids’ classmates get vaccinated with minimal side effects, they decide to get vaccinated initially for themselves, and then their children,” Kirzinger said.
The flip side is if parents talk to other parents who aren’t vaccinating their children, that could lower the prospect of vaccination, she noted.
“The number of COVID-19 vaccinated kids — younger and older — has serious implications for public health.”
By the end of July, more than 42% of all teens, ages 12 to 17, received at least one shot, according to the CDC and almost 32% were fully vaccinated.
The number of COVID-19 vaccinated kids — younger and older — has serious implications for public health. But it also counts for schools and the parents who have to juggle jobs with issues like their child’s supervision if the student has to quarantine due to infection of close contact with a fellow student.
Kaiser Family Foundation researchers are doing new polling on the topic and one question is whether the delta variant’s rise will nudge more parents into a quicker vaccination pace for their kids, she noted.
A recent study also showed a cautious parent approach. Between February and March, one third of parents said their child’s COVID-19 vaccination was “very unlikely” and 9% said it was “somewhat unlikely,” according to an article published in Pediatrics.
On the other end of the spectrum, 28% of parents said their child’s COVID-19 vaccination was “very likely” and 18% said it was “somewhat likely,” according to the research from 1,745 parents. Meanwhile, 12% were unsure, the study said.
“The known risks of vaccines ‘far outweigh the potential risks of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination.’”
— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Ideally, Lopez said he too would like to wait about two months before his two younger sons would get their COVID-19 shots. That would be ample time to see how other kids and families are faring, said Lopez, the owner of Cool4Dads.com, a website that’s geared towards fathers, connecting them with activities and events.
Lopez said that many of the parents he talks to in his line of work say they are aren’t planning to immediately vaccinate their kids.
For example, before Jaiden’s vaccination Lopez and his wife waited to hear more about myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, which is when inflammation of lining outside the heart occurs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there have been rare cases of the condition for male teens and young adults, more often after the second dose.
However, an article in the British Medical Journal said at least one such study that claimed boys are at increased risk of myocarditis after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination was deeply flawed.
“The study has been widely criticized for mining data from an inappropriate source to deliver an anti-vaccine message, despite warnings against such data uses,” the article said.
Still, the “known risks” of COVID-19 “far outweigh the potential risks of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis,” the CDC said.
“The 10 ug [microgram] dose was carefully selected as the preferred dose for safety, tolerability and immunogenicity in children 5 to 11 years of age,” Pfizer and BioNTech said in a statement on Monday. “These are the first results from a pivotal trial of a COVID-19 vaccine in this age group.”
Lopez is ready to move quicker now if he has to. If a COVID-19 case surge intensifies in the future, that might push his timeline.
Similarly, if changes in school rules make life easier for vaccinated kids and parents — like changes to quarantine policies for students in close contact with infected students — he’d push up vaccination timelines as well.
“If my hands are forced, we already have it,” Lopez noted. “I can’t really argue against it.”