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The CDC says kids should get the COVID vaccine — despite Florida

Children are at much lower risk compared to adults. But COVID-19 is still one of the top 10 causes of death for ages 5-11.
Siblings Christian Javier, 8, and Christalee Javier, 7, show off their bandages after receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event hosted by Enterprising Latinas at Wimauma Opportunity Center in Wimauma on Nov. 14, 2021.
Siblings Christian Javier, 8, and Christalee Javier, 7, show off their bandages after receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event hosted by Enterprising Latinas at Wimauma Opportunity Center in Wimauma on Nov. 14, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Mar. 10|Updated Mar. 11

Should kids get vaccinated against COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is the official health agency of the United States, recommends everyone ages 5 and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help slow the spread of the virus and reduce the risk of severe illness.

Many doctors across the country, including in South Florida, have also been recommending vaccinations.

However, Florida Department of Health Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo announced Monday during a roundtable discussion with 10 doctors and researchers on COVID-19 mitigation policies that the state will no longer be recommending COVID-19 vaccines for healthy kids. He said it would be the first recommendation of its kind in the country.

Related: Florida says healthy kids shouldn’t get COVID vaccine, contradicting CDC

Multiple panelists said that one of the reasons kids don’t need vaccines is natural immunity, since many school children had already been infected with COVID-19, according to the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau.

On Monday afternoon, while signing a bill to make strawberry shortcake Florida’s official dessert, Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about Ladapo’s announcement.

“I think the surgeon general was really concerned just that this was something that was being pushed on people. And you have your right to make your own decision for your kids, and we’re not going to interfere in that in any respects,” DeSantis said. “But weighing the costs and benefits, virtually every one of those experts we had today said it probably didn’t make sense, and I think that’s probably the right way to view it.”

Related: Florida ordered 90,000 child vaccine doses. Texas ordered 1 million.

Florida’s new guidance says that “children with underlying conditions are the best candidates” for the vaccines but that “based on currently available data, healthy children aged 5 to 17 may not benefit from receiving the currently available COVID-19 vaccine” as “there are certain risks to consider that may outweigh benefits among healthy children.”

The decision pits Florida — again — against the CDC. The policy difference also puts parents in a difficult position: Should you follow the recommendations of the CDC? Or follow Florida’s health department?

Here’s a guide to frequently asked questions on what the CDC says about COVID-19 vaccines for kids. And if you have any questions, speak with your child’s pediatrician.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective for kids? What if they got the flu shot?

COVID vaccines are safe for kids, according to the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. All of the ingredients in the vaccines are safe and can be found in many foods, including fats, sugars and salt, according to the CDC.

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The CDC also recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine and says you can get the flu and COVID vaccine at the same time.

Are there kids who should not get a COVID-19 vaccine?

There are no COVID-19 vaccines available yet for kids under 5, although vaccines are in the works. Your children should also not get the vaccine if they have previously had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine or if they had a severe allergic reaction after receiving a previous dose of the vaccine, the FDA says.

People with certain conditions, including being immunocompromised or having myocarditis or pericarditis, should also speak with their vaccine provider before getting a shot, according to the FDA. And if you’re not sure, ask your doctor.

You can find the ingredients for Pfizer’s vaccine on the FDA and CDC’s website.

How does COVID-19 affect children?

Like adults, some kids who get COVID-19 will experience symptoms while others will be asymptomatic. Most kids who fall ill with the disease will recover. However, some kids do get seriously ill and are hospitalized. Some have died.

While kids are at much lower risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19 compared to adults, the virus still ranks “as one of the top 10 causes of death for children ages 5 through 11 years,” according to the CDC. There have been 1,567 COVID-related deaths in children under 18 in the U.S., as of Monday’s CDC demographic data report.

In Florida, more than 804,000 kids younger than 16 have had COVID-19, according to Florida health department data. Forty-two of those kids died.

The CDC says kids with underlying medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes and asthma, are at higher risk for severe illness.

While it’s rare, some kids who get COVID-19 later develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a serious condition associated with COVID-19 that can cause different body parts to become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain. The CDC says it doesn’t know what causes MIS-C yet but that many kids diagnosed with it either had or had been around someone with COVID-19. While MIS-C can be deadly, most kids diagnosed with this condition recover after getting medical care.

“Additionally, children and teens ages 18 years and younger who have COVID-19 are up to 2.5 times more likely to be newly diagnosed with diabetes 30 days or more after infection,” according to the CDC.

Are vaccine side effects normal? What are they?

Some kids might experience side effects such as fever, nausea and pain in the area around the shot. The CDC says these side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days.

There have been some cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) in male adolescents and young adults, often after the second dose.

“These reports are rare, and the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis,” the CDC says.

Could vaccines affect my child’s future fertility?

The CDC says there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems.

Where can I take my child to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

There are lots of places in Florida where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine. Retail pharmacies including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Winn-Dixie, Publix and Fresco y Más offer vaccines.

Also read the Tampa Bay Times’ guide to getting vaccinated below.

• • •

How to get tested

Tampa Bay: The Times can help you find the free, public COVID-19 testing sites in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Florida: The Department of Health has a website that lists testing sites in the state. Some information may be out of date.

The U.S.: The Department of Health and Human Services has a website that can help you find a testing site.

• • •

How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow appointments to be booked online. Here’s how to find a site near you:

Find a site: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites in your ZIP code.

More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.

Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.

• • •

More coronavirus coverage

OMICRON VARIANT: Omicron changed what we know about COVID. Here’s the latest on how the infectious COVID-19 variant affects masks, vaccines, boosters and quarantining.

KIDS AND VACCINES: Got questions about vaccinating your kid? Here are some answers.

BOOSTER SHOTS: Confused about which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.

BOOSTER QUESTIONS: Are there side effects? Why do I need it? Here’s the answers to your questions.

PROTECTING SENIORS: Here’s how seniors can stay safe from the virus.

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