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Experts now have sufficient evidence that a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will help restore and enhance protection against severe disease. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded eligibility of the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech booster to everyone aged 5 and older who received their second dose 5 or more months ago.

Here’s what parents should know:

While the majority of kids do well, COVID is serious. Since the pandemic began, more than 4.8 million children ages 5 – 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19. They missed school and sports practices. Many had uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms that lasted for weeks or longer. Some have long COVID. More than 15,000 have been hospitalized. Tragically, 180 have died.

While we don’t have much research, we know that kids with COVID may also experience longer-term effects, even following initially mild disease.

COVID cases are rising nationally, even as they decrease locally.

We know the vaccines are safe. More than 18 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to this age group to date. Mild localized reactions to vaccine are common and last a day or two. Serious reactions are virtually non-existent.

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We know that the vaccines are effective. The CDC shared that the first two doses of vaccine cut hospitalizations in half for 5- to 11-year-olds, and Pfizer was able to show that kids’ virus-fighting antibodies increased after the third dose.

We know that many Vermont parents believe in vaccination. Vermont kids in the 5 – 11 age group are vaccinated with the first two doses at a rate of 56 percent.

The initial two doses of the vaccine are still the most important protective factor against a serious case of COVID or lasting effects in kids.

Those who need initial vaccines or a booster for their child can visit the COVID Resource Center. Check hours at https://svhealthcare.org/COVID-Resource-Center. It is also offered in some local pediatrician offices.

I encourage parents to get their kids vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 as soon as possible. I do not recommend waiting a few more months to see if vaccine schedules change or if new versions are produced. The booster is recommended 5 months after the second dose in the initial series. (Yes, I got my own kids their booster last week). It is a great step in protecting your children as they finish the school year and throughout the summer!

Meghan Gunn, MD, is the chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington. She is also a pediatrician at SVMC Pediatrics.


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