'It's that important': Cohen encourages COVID shots for younger children in latest fireside chat

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- During the summer surge of the Delta variant, North Carolina saw a 200% rise in COVID-19 cases among children. Some of those cases were severe. All of them were concerning if you were that child's mom or dad. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen's mission Tuesday night was to reassure parents that the shots are safe and a thousand times better than a case of covid-19.

"As a parent myself, that's why I'm really excited for us to have this conversation," Cohen said as she began her latest virtual fireside chat. This one focused on COVID-19 vaccines for younger children.

A little more than a week since the U.S. approved Pfizer's vaccine for children ages 5-11, Cohen made the case that while children overall may get sick less from COVID and less severely sick, they're susceptible to long-haul cases of the disease; some North Carolina children have died. She told parents that the vaccine is the best shot to keep them safe.

"This is not just talk," Cohen said. "I vaccinated my kids just a few days ago because I think it's that important."

Joining Cohen on screen was WakeMed pediatrician Rasheeda Monroe. Dr. Monroe is a member of the "Sister Circle," a group of WakeMed Black female doctors who have teamed up to bring vaccine equity to vulnerable communities.

At home, Monroe's 11-year-old son was one of the participants in Pfizer's COVID vaccine clinical trial for younger children. And at work, she's been on the frontlines treating COVID's youngest patients.

"We have treated families and children who have been impacted by COVID and we are really excited as pediatricians to get in the game," she said.

Cohen and Monroe took live questions from parents. A mom from Durham wanted clarification on just how many children took park in the clinical trials for the shot.

"Are we talking about 40 people? Are we talking 4,000? I feel like if it's really small -- it's too vague for me," the mother said.

Dr. Cohen said, "It was about a little more than 3,000 kids in the trial. Some of those were here in North Carolina and other places. And that's about a similar size trial to other vaccines."

Another viewer asked about the child-sized dosage of vaccine. Children are 1/3 of the adult-size dosage in a 2-dose regiment. The questioner noted there can be a big difference in size between a 5-year old and an 11-year-old. Monroe said that unlike many vaccines, the COVID shot dose is not based on weight.

"This is based on the maturity of the immune system. So whether it's a small 5-year-old or a large 11-year-old -- the development of their immune system is what matters," Dr. Monroe said.

Another question that came up Tuesday night is when will families see a vaccine for kids younger than 5?

Cohen said clinical trials are ongoing for that group. But, it's probably going to be at least another six months.
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