CHARLESTON — Dr. Gilbert Goliath, a pediatrician in West Virginia for more than 30 years, realizes some of the parents of his young patients have concerns about the pediatric COVID vaccine, but he said the decision should come down to trusting your child’s health care professional, not friends, family, or social media.
“I’ll ask a parent when they are hesitant about it. I say you come to me for everything else. Why would I lead you astray on this particular issue if you’re on board with me 99% of time with everything else. … If you believe everything else that I’m telling you, this should be no different,” Dr. Goliath said.
Dr. Goliath is one of many pediatricians in West Virginia speaking out to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated. Currently in private practice at St. Thomas Hospital in South Charleston, Goliath started in Logan and sees young patients from many areas of the state.
With the pediatric COVID vaccine available in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources asked local pediatricians to share their opinion on the vaccination for children ages 5 to 11. In response, pediatricians across the state are sharing their thoughts on the safety and need for the vaccine to help parents who are trying to decide whether to get their children vaccinated against COVID.
Dr. Goliath said he thinks the vaccine is safe and will allow families to feel protected and resume their lives. He understands the concerns but said talking with the child’s health care provider can answer the questions.
Dr. Goliath said more and more of the parents of his patients are reporting that they have gotten their child vaccinated.
“I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m seeing the uptick in the number of children being vaccinated. So that’s been a surprise, a pleasant surprise. My biggest take on this is getting (children) vaccinated so they can attend school, enjoy social activities, sports or wherever they may be, so they can have a healthier mental health status,” said Dr. Goliath.
Having children vaccinated, Dr. Goliath said, reduces the need for parents to miss work, lose income and feel stress from worrying about the safety of their children and other family members.
The CDC is now recommending Pfizer-BioNTech’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for use by children ages 5 to 11 years. CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States in this age group and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible.
The CDC released the following information: COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months. The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer. During a 6-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold.
Vaccination, along with other preventative measures, can protect children from COVID-19 using the safe and effective vaccines already recommended for use in adolescents and adults in the United States. Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm.
In terms of testing for safety, CDC officials said COVID-19 vaccines have undergone – and will continue to undergo – the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. “Vaccinating children will help protect them from getting COVID-19 and therefore reducing their risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications. Getting your children vaccinated can help protect them against COVID-19, as well as reduce disruptions to in-person learning and activities by helping curb community transmission,” said CDC officials.
To locate upcoming vaccination clinics, parents can check with their local pharmacy, pediatrician, community newspaper, county health department or visit DHHR.WV.gov.