Florida’s Fourth Estate: Is the coronavirus vaccine safe for younger kids?

Pediatrician weighs in, says she can’t wait to give her son a shot at normal life

As more adults are getting vaccinated, there is light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic, but we are still in the tunnel.

The good news: if your tunnel happens to be in Florida, as of April 5, anyone 16 and older can now get vaccinated.

Adults deciding to get the shot are one thing. Minors who need parental consent are quite another.

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With no real proven track record, how do we know the vaccine is safe for our kids?

On this week’s edition of Florida’s Fourth Estate, anchors Ginger Gadsden and Matt Austin speak with Dr. Candice Jones about the vaccine and your kids.

Jones is an Orlando pediatrician and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

She answered some of the most common and not-so-common questions about vaccine safety when it comes to kids.

Many parents have no qualms about getting a vaccine themselves, but they aren’t as eager to offer up their kids for something that hasn’t been around very long. They worry about any long-term effects the vaccine could have on teens. Right now, the only vaccine approved for kids younger than 18 is the one made by Pfizer.

Jones, who has a 12-year-old son, said she will get him vaccinated when it’s available for his age group. She was very candid when she talked about the possibility of long-term effects.

“We don’t know,” she said and added, “These people will be studied for years to come to see if anything like that happens.”

And while we don’t have all the answers right now, Jones said, “What we do have is decades and decades of safety from vaccines as a whole. So, we know about polio and measles and what vaccines have done to save and prevent illnesses for decades now. That’s the shoulders we stand on when we talk about this vaccine.”

Jones did want to clarify one point a lot of people make when they say messenger RNA or mRNA technology is “new.” mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.

“mRNA technology for the Pfizer and Moderna is not new” she said. “It is the first vaccine that has come out to be given to us with that technology. But the mRNA technology as far as vaccines has been studied for about 15 years or more.”

She added, “This pandemic was just that first opportunity to say, ‘hey, I think we can use this here because we know it works well.’”

Even with all of its success, there are still a lot of questions about the vaccines, particularly from the Black community. Some Black moms who are not getting the shot themselves certainly are not going to sign their kids up for it. We wanted to know what Jones would tell African American moms who are skeptical about the vaccines.

Without missing a beat, Jones said, “First, I would tell them, I am a Black mom, and I did my research and I found that these vaccines are safe and effective.”

Then she leaned in with her second reason for trusting the vaccine and puts it in blunt terms.

“Just to be really plain with it, from looking at the information and doing my research, I surmise, that if I got COVID-19, even after getting this vaccine… I know that I am confident that I will not die.”

So far, more than 556,000 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S.

She said you can still get the flu after getting the flu shot but your symptoms are less severe. It’s the same with getting a COVID-19 vaccine. If you still contract the virus, you might feel sick, but you will fare better overall with the shot than without it.

“This covid thing is killing people” she emphasized.

Jones shared another reason to get the vaccine. You won’t end up in the hospital on a ventilator. That’s a biggie.

That’s when co-host Matt Austin chimed in with what he has learned about being intubated from his dad. His father suffered a severe spinal cord injury in 1990.

“The worst moment of his life was waking up with that thing shoved down his throat. He’s told me several times since then ‘if any doctor ever tries to do that to me again, you let me die,’” Austin said.

It was a sobering moment but drove home the excruciating experience so many hospitalized coronavirus patients endure.

“I don’t think people understand the gravity of the situation when they have to shove that down your throat. They think, oh, I’m just breathing free and easy. It’s like choking to death with every breath according to my dad,” Austin said.

Jones said that kind of powerful testimony should clear up any confusion for those who think getting the virus is better than getting the vaccine.

Jones has been vaccinated and said she still continues to practice all of the safety precautions. Now though, she said she feels free to join her vaccinated friends at a restaurant for a glass of wine. She said once her son is vaccinated, she will allow him to hang out with his vaccinated friends and hopefully go back to school.

All of those things sound so normal yet delightfully magical.

If you would like to hear more about what Jones has to say about the safety of vaccines and kids, click on the link for Florida’s Fourth Estate.

Florida’s Fourth Estate looks at everything from swampy politics to a fragile environment and even the crazy headlines that make Florida the craziest state in the Union.

Ginger Gadsden and Matt Austin use decades of experience as journalists to dissect the headlines that impact Florida. Each week they have a guest host who helps give an irreverent look at the issues impacting the Sunshine State. Big influencers, like Attorney John Morgan, renowned Florida journalists and the scientists protecting Florida’s ecosystem, can often be found as guests.

Look for new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Listen to the full episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate on iTunes here or on Sticher here.

About the Author:

Ginger Gadsden joined the News 6 team in June 2014 as an anchor/reporter. She currently co-anchors the 4 p.m. 5:30 p.m. and the 7 p.m. newscasts.