But as a group, the experts surveyed had no conflicts over vaccinating children. Many cited the risk of long-term physical and neurological effects of Covid-19, which are still unknown in children. And they were worried about new variants of the virus that could become more dangerous for children.
“We are still learning about the long-term effects of Covid-19 in asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic people who were previously healthy,” Ms. Ergas, Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “I don’t panic if my kids have Covid, but I’d rather they don’t.”
Others were more concerned. “I suspect that a proportion of children who have a Covid-19 infection will go on to have problems because of the inflammation,” said Dr. Jessica Ericson, an infectious disease pediatrician at Penn State College of Medicine. “The long-term consequences of Covid-19 are unknown at this time, but they are unlikely to be zero. This contrasts with vaccination, which has no plausible long-term consequences.”
They said, beyond the health of children, pediatric vaccines were necessary for the greater good. The pandemic is unlikely to end in the United States until children are vaccinated, they said. Although children are less likely than adults to spread the coronavirus, as long as the virus can replicate, it will mutate, whether the carriers are symptomatic adults or asymptomatic children. In addition, even if Americans achieve widespread immunity, the virus will continue to spread and mutate in parts of the world without the same access to vaccines.
“It’s a big altruistic request to get vaccinated in children under 12,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Irvine. “The vast majority of cases will not be sick. It is not for your benefit; it is to prevent them from spreading it to others. “
Dr. Andrew Handel, an infectious disease pediatrician at Stony Brook Medicine, said: “Once approved, I will be vaccinating my children with enthusiasm. These vaccines are the best solution we have for the tremendous damage caused by this disease. “
While experts urged continued caution until a pediatric vaccine arrived, they also stressed that parents should weigh the risks of continued social isolation. In general, experts were a little more concerned about the mental health consequences of the pandemic for children than about its effects on their physical health.