Milwaukee Health Department planning Pfizer distribution for kids 12-15, amid survey showing most parents hesitant

NOW: Milwaukee Health Department planning Pfizer distribution for kids 12-15, amid survey showing most parents hesitant

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Survey data released Thursday, May 6 show only three out of 10 U.S. parents who have kids 12 to 15 years old would get their kids vaccinated as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine gets approved. The results come as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is anticipated to grant Emergency Use Authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to use for children within the age group next week.

Some doctors say this data is concerning, because while children don’t get as sick when infected with COVID-19, they can still transmit virus and even develop issues later on. It’s also going to affect how quickly the community can reach herd immunity.

“If we are going to get to herd immunity, then children do make up a significant portion of the population,” said Dr. William Hartman, lead researcher for UW Health’s AstraZeneca clinical trial.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows only 30-percent of parents with a child 12 to 15 would vaccinate their kids immediately, while 26-percent said they would wait and see, 18-percent will only do it if it’s required and 23-percent say their child will definitely not get the vaccine.

“People are very protective, they’re very scared when it comes to their own kids,” adds Dr. Hartman.

Even so, doctors say the Pfizer vaccine proved to have 100-percent efficacy in more than 2,000 kids who participated in the study. Millions of Pfizer doses have already been given to people 16 and older, with what doctors call an excellent safety profile.

“They’ve said they were extremely well tolerated, and the side effects were similar or better than in adults,” said Dr. Ben Weston, assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and medical director for Milwaukee County’s Office of Emergency Management.

Dr. Hartman is a father of five, two of his sons who are 16 and 17 have both received Pfizer doses and are now fully vaccinated. His younger two sons, ages 12 and 13, plan to get the shots immediately. He says having his high school boys vaccinated gives him peace of mind, because they are active in sports.

“With them being vaccinated, I feel very confident that they’re not going to get sick by participating in these events,” he adds.

While the vaccine is pending FDA Emergency Use Authorization, the Milwaukee Health Department is actively working with Wisconsin Department of Health Services on a parental form that would grant kids 12 to 15 permission to get both doses with just one signature. 

“We’re also working with Milwaukee Public Schools and other schools to make sure it’s accessible for families and students,” said Kirsten Johnson, Milwaukee Health Commissioner.

Dr. Weston believes as more data comes out, the more vaccine confidence will increase, just as it did when vaccines first came out for adults.

“That hesitancy goes down and the interest in vaccine goes up significantly, so I would expect similar with vaccines in that 12 to 15 age group,” Dr. Weston says.

Johnson says the decision to make vaccines mandatory in schools would fall on the State Department of Public Instruction, DHS and maybe even federal entities, but she does not think vaccines would be mandatory by fall 2021. 

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