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Kids under 5 qualify for COVID vaccine: Doctor answers questions from parents

Children under 5 are now the newest group to qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine. While some parents have been eager for the chance to vaccinate their young children, others still have questions before they decide to do so.

MORE: Local parents react to CDC recommendation of COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5

Katie Reis has a 6-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. Neither of them is vaccinated and she doesn't plan on changing that any time soon.

"It hasn't been around that long and I just don't know enough about it," said Reis. "To me, it's not worth the risk. And just seeing what I've seen, I guess we'll wait and see how it goes."

MORE: COVID-19 vaccinations begin for US children under 5

We took common questions from parents to Riverside County's health director Dr. Geoffrey Leung. 

What is the purpose of vaccinating kids 5 and under?

"The main purpose of the vaccine is to prevent serious complications, hospitalization, death, and then long-term impacts from COVID," said Leung.

So far, 265 kids 11 and under in the county have been hospitalized because of COVID while 2 have died. 

What are the potential side effects?

"So the potential for side effects is actually very low with children under 5," said Leung. "You know, the most common things we see are what we see in adults, which is immediately after the shot, you know, kids may have some fever, some discomfort in the arm, they may feel tired. And those side effects tend to go away within the first one to two days... However, we are worried about potential long-term side effects related to getting COVID the infection."

Which COVID vaccine should my child get?

Children can get either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine in child-sized doses. 

"They both look like they're very effective and very safe," said Leung. "So we would recommend either one including whichever one is available at your pediatrician's office or local pharmacy."

If I'm vaccinated and I breastfed my child, does my child still need the vaccine?

County health officials said they encourage pregnant women to get vaccinated, if not already, to help the immunity pass along to their child. However, health officials said once the child becomes old enough, they should still get the COVID vaccine.

Why should I vaccinate my child under 5 if most older children have yet to be vaccinated?

In the county, only 6% of 5 to11-year-olds have gotten their first two COVID shots since they qualified back in November 2021.

"What we've seen is, and what we believe is that parents believe or feel that children are not getting symptoms that are severe," said Leung. "The vaccine works really well for keeping people out of the hospital for preventing deaths and preventing long-term complications from COVID... For parents who are sort of on the fence, you know, we would kind of encourage you to talk with your own doctors. But really think about, you know, what are the risks associated with your child getting COVID versus being protected by the vaccine."

When and where will the COVID vaccines for kids under 5 be available in Riverside County?

County health officials said the vaccines for kids under 5 are not yet available in the county, however, they expect them to be ready for next week.

Leung said parents can get their child vaccinated at their local pharmacy or doctor.

Once the vaccines become available in the county, parents can use the following two websites to schedule an appointment:

Governor Gavin Newsom advocated for the new age group to get the vaccines. In a statement, he announced he pre-ordered nearly 400,000 doses to be administered at the more than 8,500 vaccine sites throughout the state.

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Marian Bouchot

Marian Bouchot is the weekend morning anchor and a reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. Learn more about Marian here.

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