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Wisconsin doctor urges people not to trivialize how dangerous COVID is to children, now that kids 5-11 can be vaccinated

Accompanied by his family, a student gets vaccinated at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Tuesday in Winnetka, Calif.
Mario Tama
/
Getty Images
Accompanied by his family, a student gets vaccinated at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Tuesday in Winnetka, Calif.

Earlier this week, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the recommendation that children ages 5 to 11 receive the Pfizer pediatric vaccination against COVID-19.

There are about 500,000 children in that age group in Wisconsin.

Distribution of the vaccine is underway. But it’s not yet clear when shots will go in kids’ arms. That’s because local health departments are waiting for the green light from the CDC.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard wants parents who are deciding whether to vaccinate their kids to keep some things in mind.

Westergaard is the chief medical officer with the state Department of Health Services Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

During a state COVID-19 media briefing Wednesday, Westergaard said it’s okay for parents to be hesitant to get their children vaccinated. But he urges people not to trivialize how dangerous COVID-19 can be for children.

"The risk of severe COVID-19 among young children is much, much lower than among older or elderly patients. It's not zero. In addition, there have been over 8,000 hospitalizations nationwide among people in the age group, which can be very scary and very disruptive for families. Again, this is something that is preventable from the vaccine, which had about a 90% reduction in the clinical trials of symptomatic COVID-19," Westergaard said.

Westergaard also mentioned the increased risk of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children who contract COVID-19. There have been more than 100 cases in Wisconsin. The syndrome is not caused by COVID-19, but by the immune system’s response that can lead to hospitalizations or severe illness.

Westergaard's final message to parents on the fence about vaccinating their kids is that millions of people have been vaccinated, and there is a good track record that shows the benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh the risks.

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