TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As vaccines roll out this week for the final eligible age group — children aged 6 months to 5 years old — the top doctors of Florida and the U.S. are offering opposite recommendations on whether to vaccinate them.
The vaccines were approved by the FDA last week and given authorization by the CDC to vaccinate children as young as 6 months the following day.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said despite the very low risk of severe outcomes to young children from COVID-19, the benefits of protection from the vaccine outweigh the risks.
“It is absolutely true that young children thankfully are at lower risk of bad outcomes from COVID than older Americans,” Murthy told 8 On Your Side in an exclusive interview. “But that does not mean no risk. In fact, we’ve seen that COVID is more deadly than the flu. It’s been more deadly than other illnesses for which we already vaccinate children right now. We have lost nearly 500 children under 5 during the pandemic.”
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said there is “insufficient data to inform benefits and risks in children.”
“We expect to have good data that the benefits outweigh the risks of any therapies or treatments before we recommend them to Floridians,” Ladapo said last week about the vaccine trials. “That’s not going to change. I don’t think that’s particularly radical. I think it’s very sensible.”
Ladapo posted several questions about the vaccine trials for children on Twitter last week.
“Did the COVID-19 vaccine trials for kids <5 show a reduction in severe illness?” Ladapo asked in the tweet. “Did the trials show a benefit for those with a prior COVID-19 infection? Is there a benefit for kids with no pre-existing conditions?”
8 On Your Side posed those questions to Murthy.
“I completely agree with the idea that these are decisions that should be made by parents in consultation with their health care provider based on public health experience and scientific data,” Murthy responded. “That’s what should drive these decisions. When you look at the kids who have been hospitalized under 5 or had a rough outcome from COVID, not all of them had pre-existing conditions. In fact, about half of them have had no risk factors for severe outcomes. You can’t always predict which kids are going to run into trouble.”
“The second thing to keep in mind is that the trials that were done with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for kids under 5, what they showed is – one, a reduction in the likelihood of getting infected. And two, kids who are vaccinated developed antibody levels — the proteins in your body that help fight infection — and they developed antibody levels on par with adults who were vaccinated. And those levels in adults helped prevent them from ending up in the hospital or losing their life to COVID-19.”
Murthy recommends people talk to their doctor and local health departments to get information to make the right decision.