As a group, however, the interviewed experts were unable to vaccinate children. Many cited the risk of long-term physical and neurological effects from Covid-19, which are still unknown in children. And they were concerned about new variants of the virus that could become more dangerous for children.
"We're still learning about the long-term effects of Covid-19 in asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic, previously healthy individuals," said Ms. Ergas of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. "I'm not panicking about my kids getting Covid, but I'd rather they not."
Others were more concerned. "I suspect that some of the children with Covid-19 infection will continue to have inflammation-related problems," said Dr. Jessica Ericson, an infectious disease pediatrician at Penn State College of Medicine. "The long-term consequences of Covid-19 are currently unknown, but it is unlikely to be zero. This is in contrast to vaccination, which has no plausible long-term consequences. "
In addition to the health of children, pediatric vaccines are necessary for the common good. The pandemic in the United States is unlikely to end until children are vaccinated, they said. Although children are less likely than adults to spread the coronavirus, it will mutate as long as the virus can replicate, regardless of whether the carriers are symptomatic adults or asymptomatic children. Even if Americans achieve widespread immunity, the virus will continue to spread and mutate in parts of the world without equal access to vaccines.
"It's a big, altruistic demand that children under the age of 12 be vaccinated in large numbers," said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Irvine. “The vast majority of cases will not be sick. It is not for their benefit. It's supposed to prevent them from passing it on to others. "
Dr. Andrew Handel, an infectious disease pediatrician at Stony Brook Medicine, said: “Once approved, I will be excited to vaccinate my children. These vaccines are the best solution to the tremendous harm this disease is causing. "
The cost of isolation
While the experts continued to exercise caution until a pediatric vaccine arrived, they also stressed parents need to weigh the risks of prolonged social isolation. Overall, experts were slightly more concerned about the psychological consequences of the pandemic for children than about its impact on their physical health.