Vaccinations among eligible children also have been slower than other age groups. For example, in Philadelphia, just 37% of five to 11-year-olds have had at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to a whopping 94% of residents over 12.

Similarly, 35% of five to 11-year-olds in Delaware and in New Jersey have had at least one dose.

More than half of parents surveyed in the Vaccine Monitor Survey said they don’t have enough information about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy for children under five. WHYY’s Health Desk Help Desk reached out to experts in the Delaware Valley to learn more.

Why do kids under five need three doses of the mRNA vaccine?

Pfizer’s clinical trial found that two doses did not produce the desired immune response among this age group, meaning their antibody levels weren’t to the level of other age groups.

Dr. Cassie Louis, one of the researchers co-leading the Pfizer vaccine trial for kids at Rutgers University, said she wasn’t surprised by the results, because the dosage is only one-tenth that of Pfizer’s adult COVID-19 vaccine.

However, the results of the third shot are very promising, she said.

“We have seen an increase in immune response, meaning an increase in the body’s first line of defense,” said Louis, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Rutgers. “We’ve seen that the vaccine is helpful for preventing symptomatic COVID, but also for preventing severe infection, meaning requiring hospitalization or having secondary effects like MIS-C [multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children].”

Should I vaccinate my kid?

Parents have a choice: vaccinate their young kids, or accept their kids’ risk of getting COVID-19, according to Miller, the pediatrician from Nemours.

“We’re at a point where coronavirus has become very, very contagious. Given enough time, it’s likely that your child is going to get COVID,” he said. “And so, you have a decision to make right now. And that decision is, what do you want your child to be exposed to? Do you want them to get the vaccine? Or do you want them to get COVID?”

While we’ve seen by now that COVID infections still occur among the vaccinated, their outcomes are far less harmful, and rarely lethal.

COVID-19, especially among the unvaccinated, can cause serious complications, such as heart and breathing problems. Children also can develop Long COVID, as well as MIS-C – a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19 that can cause serious gastrointestinal, cardio, and neurological problems. There have been 8,525 MIS-C cases among all children since the beginning of the pandemic. Though much rarer among five to 11-year-olds than adults, there have been 364 deaths among this age group.

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