BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — A big effort is underway here in New York State to get youth vaccinated to create heard immunity, but only about one-third of parents say they plan to get their child vaccinated.
Right now only those 16 years and older are eligible, but the CDC is considering giving the Pfizer vaccine to children 12 to 15 years of age. That could also make a difference in schools reopening to full learning next fall.
“If we're trying to protect all of society — I think kids are actually going to become a necessary group to vaccine because they make up about 20-percent of the population,” explained Dr.Mark Hicar, pediatric infectious disease specialist, Oishei Children's Hospital & associate professor at UB.
Dr. Hicar says some parents are coming to him with concerns based on myths and outrageous rumors.
“Where — the vaccine will pass to other people and make them sterile — actually one mom asked ‘I heard it would make you a zombie,’”, Dr. Hicar recalled.
The Kasier Family Foundation's most recent data says about 30-percent of parents are willing to get their child vaccinated if the Pfzizer vaccine is approved for children 12 to 15.
Hispanic parents are a bit higher at 31-percent. 25-percent of Black parents say they want to get their child vaccinated, but 29-percent say they “definitely” will “not”.
“What is your best advice and how would you convince a parent that's on the edge — that's not really ready to do that?”, asked Buckley
“When I have someone who is hesitant about it, I try to figure out what exactly the problems or the issues that they raise — then I try to address each one of those,” Dr. Hicar responded. “Don't just Google things — there's a lot of misinformation on the internet, so I would try to speak to a medical professional, go to trusted websites like the Center for Disease Control and read as much as you can — don't read Facebook comments.”
“I do plan to get my children vaccinated,” declared Jessica Bauer-Walker, Buffalo school parent.
Bauer-Walker has two children ages 11 and 14.
“I was even a bit nervous myself at first, but I feel I’ve really done my research and talked to doctors and at this point I feel like it's really important for us for our own personal and family health as well as the community health to take the vaccine,” Bauer-Walker said.
“What was the key thing that convinced you that yes I’m going to get my kids vaccinated?,” Buckley questioned.
“I trust the science — I believe in the science. I’ve done my research and I think you still have that little twinge as a parent — I think we all want to be doing the right thing for our families,” replied Bauer-Walker. “’I’ve seen this pandemic do so much damage. I’ve lost friends and I’ve seen what it's done to our community.”
New York State already requires a number of vaccines for children to attend public school.
Both Bauer-Walker and Dr. Hicar say that might the best solution for getting children vaccinated against Covid.
“The whole thing around vaccine mandates is really challenging — but we do have them for other vaccinations,” Bauer-Walker noted.
“I personally would have no trouble with that and I think a lot of states are probably going to go to that,” Dr. Hicar remarked.
Back on January 5 Governor Cuomo noted that the issue of mandating vaccines faces a big legal question.
“There is a legal question as to whether or not, with what’s called an emergency authorization you can mandate, this is an emergency authorization, federal approval. There is a complicated legal question as to whether or not you can mandate a person take a vaccine that is authorized as an emergency authorization,” Cuomo stated.
7 Eyewitness News reached out to the New York State Health Department regarding the issue. For now the health department provided this written statement regarding vaccines for 12 to 15 year old children:
“Before New Yorkers 12-15 years-old could access the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, we will review the FDA’s emergency use authorization.. Our process involves paying close attention to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), following the recommendation process and convening a meeting of the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force [forward.ny.gov], as we have done with every emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines to date. Then the Health Commissioner will make a recommendation to the Governor. We expect to complete this process quickly, as we have in the past, and do not expect it to delay newly eligible populations from accessing the vaccine.”
Director of Public Information, NSDOH