Virginia’s vaccination coordinator weighs in on benefits and risks of pediatric COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – With an FDA panel voting this week to recommend emergency use authorization of a low-dose Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 through 11, Virginia Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula is answering questions about the pediatric vaccine.

Currently, everyone 12 or older is eligible to be vaccinated. 

Dr. Avula, a pediatrician and father of five, told WAVY News deciding to get yourself vaccinated is not the same as deciding what to do about your children.

As parents continue to weigh the benefits and risks, here’s how he sees it.

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations most doctors agree the more arms the better for putting an end to the pandemic. That includes children.

Dr. Danny Avula says parents are justified in their concerns since COVID-19 doesn’t cause severe disease in most kids.

“That is very true that the vast majority of kids who contract COVID are not going to develop severe disease but COVID is also not harmless,” said Dr. Avula.

The vaccine may not be harmless either.

Here’s what we know. According to the Virginia Department of Health less than 1,000 patients under the age of 19 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 across the commonwealth in the past year and a half, and 10 have died. Dr. Avula said most who passed away had severe underlying conditions.


On the flip side, some vaccine advisors expressed concern about the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis, which are types of heart inflammation that have been associated with the vaccine and impacted boys at a much higher rate than girls. Most cases in adolescent boys and young men required hospitalization. There were no cases reported in 5-11 year olds, but that was expected due to the size of the study.

“If we were to vaccinate a million people we would expect to see somewhere between 60 and 80 cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, so 60 to 80 out of a million a pretty rare incidence,” explained Dr. Avula.

Compare that, Avula said, to the 11,000 COVID cases that would be prevented, along with 500 hospitalizations, 120 ICU admissions and 6 deaths.

“When you look at that kind of risk benefit analysis again, yeah, we need to take that risk of Myocarditis seriously, but in the big picture there’s a much stronger imperative to vaccinate.”

Vaccine advisors also wrestled with the fact that according to the CDC up to 40% of children in this age group have already had COVID and may have natural immunity.

The CDC will look at vaccine risks and benefits next week. 10 On Your Side will continue to follow the discussion to help you make the best decision.

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Senatara COVID-19 Infographic (Dec. 2020)

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