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Pediatricians say COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect children and the people around them. Phynart Studio/Getty Images
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics is launching an advertising campaign to convince parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • The organization says the vaccines are safe, effective, and can be administered along with other childhood immunizations.
  • Experts say getting children vaccinated protects them as well as the people around them such as grandparents, teachers, and other kids.

As schools reopen and the COVID-19 Delta variant sends case numbers shooting back up, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has launched a full-court press against misinformation when it comes to getting children 12 years old and older vaccinated.

The AAP’s campaign includes television and radio public service announcements in English and Spanish as well as social media posts, animated science videos, and clips of pediatricians doling out the facts about vaccinations.

A major motivation for the AAP initiative is children returning to classrooms, just as COVID-19 case numbers among kids have increased more than fivefold between late July and late August.

According to AAP officials, there were 38,000 cases among children during the week ending July 22. That number jumped to 204,000 the week ending August 26, with more than 19,000 of those children requiring hospitalization.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Pfizer vaccine in teens 16 and older and granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for children 12 to 15 years old.

AAP officials say vaccines for children 5 years old and up may be authorized soon, and clinical trials are underway in children as young as 6 months old.

“The COVID-19 Delta variant is increasingly infecting kids across the country, who now account for up to 1 in 5 cases,” Dr. Lee Benjamin, a pediatric emergency doctor for Envision Healthcare in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told Healthline.

“Sick children can transmit the virus to at-risk adults. Although most children with COVID-19 do well, developing only minor illness, the sheer number of pediatric cases means more kids are becoming ill, requiring hospitalization and even intensive care,” he said.

“Although not at the rates we see in adults, pediatric deaths do occur from COVID-19,” added Dr. Ilan Shapiro, the medical director of health education and wellness at AltaMed Health Service and a fellow at the AAP.

Shapiro said medical professionals need to have open and honest conversations with parents about the vaccines.

“Having these conversations can help address concerns, clear up confusion, and point parents to trusted resources to make the best decision for their family,” Shapiro told Healthline.

“As a father and a pediatrician, I want to ensure that children are safe and, most importantly, protected against the virus and its ramifications,” he said. “Part of the conversation I have with my patients is explaining the trust I have put into the vaccine to protect myself and my family against COVID-19.”

“The last thing we need is more infections among children,” Shapiro added. “As parents, we want to create as many barriers as possible against the virus. One of them is getting vaccinated.”

Dr. Zachary Hoy, a pediatric disease specialist at Nashville Pediatric Infectious Disease in Tennessee, says now is the time for children to get vaccinated.

“Children are back in school, so they are gathering around more people,” Hoy told Healthline.

“Children are sometimes more efficient spreaders of viruses, so vaccination could help interrupt a common source of virus shedding,” he continued. “Many children are watched by an older adult family member while parents are at work. If children get vaccinated, this could further protect other family members and caregivers by decreasing the overall spread.”

Hoy suggests getting COVID-19 vaccinations at the same time children receive their other routine vaccinations.

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a board-certified pediatrician and consultant for the parenting website Mom Loves Best. She told Healthline there are some important things parents need to know about getting their children vaccinated:

“Vaccination is safe and effective,” she explained. “The COVID vaccine can be administered with other vaccines. Side effects of the COVID vaccine are generally minor, such as tenderness at the injection site, low-grade fever, tiredness, chills, headaches. These side effects indicate the body is building protection.

“Breakthrough infection, although rare, can occur even if fully vaccinated, as no vaccine is 100 percent effective,” she noted. “The majority of breakthrough infection is for the mild disease. Hospitalization and need for intensive care is less likely than if one is unvaccinated.”

Shapiro also noted that doctors are now seeing more children experiencing long-haul COVID with symptoms lingering for months.

He said he’s hopeful vaccines for children younger than 12 years old will become available between December and January.

“Unfortunately, this virus knows no boundaries,” Shapiro said. “Everyone is susceptible. Kids, especially, can be carriers to loved ones who cannot get vaccinated. Vaccinating children protects them and the people around them.

“The virus continues to mutate, and we could get to a point where the current vaccines can’t provide sufficient protection,” he added. “The more people who are vaccinated will help prevent getting to that point.”