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Sound Health is a recurring series that airs twice each month on WGLT's Sound Ideas program.Support for Sound Health comes from Carle Health, bringing care, coverage, support, healthcare research and education to central Illinois and beyond.

Sound Health: Waiting for COVID vaccines for children under 5

In McLean County, 24% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Emily Bollinger
In McLean County, 24% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Many parents have struggled with the decision of whether to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. That could soon become a question many more parents will have to answer.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could authorize a smaller vaccine dose for children under age 5 soon, though the agency said Friday it will need more time to evaluate data on the vaccine’s effectiveness on the youngest population. That delays a much-anticipated meeting in which health advocates had hoped the vaccine would be green-lit.

Mike Endris is a pediatrician with OSF HealthCare in Bloomington. In this edition of Sound Health, Endris said the most common question he gets from parents about COVID-19 is: are his kids vaccinated?

“I most assuredly will tell them yes. My kids that are of age are vaccinated and when it comes time and we have a chance to review that data that Pfizer is going to present to the FDA, then I would most likely be in agreement and get my youngest kids vaccinated as well,” Endris said.

Mike Endris
OSF HealthCare
Mike Endris

Endris said he has three children under age 5 who will likely get the COVID vaccine soon after it’s authorized for them.

Endris said more vaccines in children would likely mean fewer kids in the hospital. OSF Children's Hospital in Peoria had as many as 10 COVID-19 patients at one time last week. That’s much higher than the hospital encountered before the omicron variant spiked coronavirus cases across all age groups.

“It’s definitely starting to affect the younger population more and more,” Endris said.

Endris said in his outpatient practice, he has seen significantly more coronavirus cases in patients since the emergence of omicron. Many of them show breathing problems, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, headaches and fevers, many symptoms associated with the flu. He said even if severe reactions are rare, they do happen and sometimes have long-term side effects, such as a whole body inflammation known as MISC (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children).

“For the most part, kids are going to do ok when they get it, however it’s a roll of the dice because we do know that some kids will be to be hospitalized or need additional breathing treatments with COVID-19.”

Endris said he has had several pediatric patients get the coronavirus twice in four months, so natural immunity does not grant anyone complete protection.

In McLean County, 24% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated. The statewide rate is 30%.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.