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Health & Wellness

How vaccines for kids under 5 can help anti-COVID efforts in Dallas County

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An FDA panel has backed small doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for use in kids under five.

The CDC has given final approval to COVID vaccines for children younger than 5. The agency's backing followed an earlier FDA recommendation of the Pfizer and Moderna versions. Dr. Philip Huang, Health Director for Dallas County Health and Human Services, talked with KERA’s Sam Baker about how vaccinating kids so young will impact local efforts to control COVID.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

How would vaccinations for kids under 5 help the local fight against COVID?

I wouldn't say it's a game changer. I think it's an important next step.

This is a group that has not had ability to get the vaccine. And so that protection still going to be very important, whether it's to help prevent further spread to other family members.

And for that group, there are serious complications and things that we've seen from getting COVID infection.

Have you sensed a strong desire among parents to get their younger children vaccinated against COVID?

I've seen some surveys saying maybe 20% tend to get their kids vaccinated right away in that age group. We've been dealing with some hesitancy in all the different age groups. But every shot we can get, someone that can help protect and slow down the spread is good. 

How's Dallas County doing overall on COVID? There's been talk of a resurgence of late

We're definitely seeing sort of slow, steady increases in the number of cases. Some of the hospital numbers have been going up, but these are still lower levels than what we've seen earlier. 

  • For instance, suspected and confirmed visits in the last 24 hours for Dallas County, 260, and at its peak, we had close to 1,400.
  • Or you look at June 13, we had about 280 suspected and confirmed emergency department visits in the prior 24 hours. The peak back in January got close to 1,400.

Again, we're seeing slow progressive increases in these numbers, but the magnitude of what we're talking about is much less than we've certainly seen its peaks. 
Does this slow resurgence inspire worry? 

We're hopeful things will stay in this lower range during the summer for the next several weeks. We're definitely worried about the fall season because people are getting further away from when they had either their primary vaccine series or boosters. So that protection is waning. And then as you get into the fall, kids are going back to school, more people are indoors in closer contact, things like that. So those are sort of a combination of things that could be not good for our community.

Do you worry some people think or believe COVID is over? 

Oh, that is a worry. We're not out of this. It's something we're certainly going to have to learn how to live with, a sort of a new normal. People who are at high risk should continue to consider taking precautions. But that’s one of the other factors contributing to the increases that we're seeing most recently. 

What can you do about it at this point?

We are trying to keep the public updated on the situation and what we're seeing.

Still doing a lot of outreach efforts to make sure people have access to the vaccine. In some places where people have less access, we’re working with community partners and trusted community leaders. We're still seeing some good responses with that.

Now, with opening up the vaccine for under 5, that will be a new population eligible. We anticipate a lot of uptake from that, but we’ll still get the message out that if people haven't been vaccinated yet, they need to get their primary vaccine, and if they're eligible for the boosters, get that and still be aware of precautions that you might want to take.

RESOURCES:

CDC clears the way for vaccinations for children 6 months to 5 years old

FDA panel unanimously backs Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5

COVID-19 Vaccination for Children

COVID in Babies and Kids: Symptoms and Prevention

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at sbaker@kera.org. You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

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