Central Coast doctors say COVID-19 cases among kids locally have increased slightly as schools and sports open, but they say that's mainly because children aren't eligible for the vaccine yet.
“Once you are exposed to that, you are a little paranoid. My son was kind of getting some cough and cold symptoms and my baby too, she got a stuffy nose,” said San Luis Obispo dad Mitchel Gonzalez.
The Gonzalez family had a COVID-19 scare in December. Luckily, both tests came back negative, but they are taking precautions especially as their son goes back to kindergarten.
"My wife and I talked about deciding between keeping him distance learning or letting go back to school with the possibility of him being exposed to other children, but we are more optimistic about the future and our kids are the future," Gonzalez said.
New data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows children 18 and younger account for nearly 22% of new COVID-19 infections in the last week of April. While severe symptoms are rare for children, they can happen.
“In general we are going to start to see the numbers of infections skew down to lower age groups as those lower age groups haven't had a chance to be vaccinated yet,” said Sansum Clinic pediatrician Dr. Dan Brennan.
Dr. Brennan also believes the reopening of schools and youth sports could explain the rise of cases.
He is hopeful the vaccine will be as effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 among kids as it has for adults.
Pfizer plans to ask the FDA for emergency use of its vaccine for kids between the ages of two and 11 in the coming months.
“By the time we are able to get this to our younger patients, we will feel really good about that if the data continues to look as good as it has so far,” Dr. Brennan said. “If we ever hope to achieve herd immunity, getting 80 to 90% of the whole population, not just the adult population."
Dr. Mathieu de Schutter, chairman of Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center Pediatrics, agrees.
"Unless we achieve herd immunity, which can only happen with vaccination of most citizens including children, COVID-19 will be a threat permanently,” Dr. de Schutter said. "I think the risks of the vaccine are much less severe and have fewer long-term consequences of COVID."
However, some parents are unsure about whether or not to get their kids vaccinated.
“I don't know, it's such a tough one. We all feel so confused and a little divided on that issue,” said San Luis Obispo mom Ruth Moynihan. “I am very middle of the road, like I want to do the right thing but would prefer not to."
Pfizer plans to submit the emergency use request for children under 12 in September.
For now, doctors encourage parents to get their kids tested for COVID-19 if they show any symptoms of the disease.
By next week, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 12 and up. According to CNN, Pfizer said a clinical trial involving more than 2,200 12-to-15-year-olds showed an efficacy of 100%, and they tolerated it well.