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'You don't want kids to get sick' | Expert explains value of COVID-19 vaccine for young children

11Alive's Tracey Amick Peer spoke with Emory University's Dr. Carlos Del Rio.

ATLANTA — It's been a long time coming - more than two years into the pandemic, and the COVID-19 vaccine is now available for kids aged six months and up.

But many parents of young children say they still have questions.

11Alive's Tracey Amick Peer spoke to Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University and one of Atlanta's most prominent voices on COVID since the pandemic began, about why kids should be getting the vaccine.

"Most people around the world would be dying to get their kids vaccinated, I think it's a really important for people to have," Dr. Del Rio said.

Many parents have wondered exactly how COVID affects young children, those now eligible for the vaccine. 

According to Georgia Department of Public Health figures, more than 61,000 kids under the age of 5 have contracted COVID in this state - with about 2% of them needing hospital care. Twelve children in that age group have died.

Dr. Del Rio said the vaccine was about more than just preventing the worst COVID outcomes.

"There are many diseases that don't have a high mortality we still vaccinate for, and I think - again, this is not just to prevent you from dying, you don't want kids to get sick," he said.

He also offered a reassuring message for parents who have doubts about the kind of safety testing that went into the vaccine. He said even without long-term tests, research shows the vaccine is ready.

"We have the testing that has been done through the clinical trials," he said. "And again, the FDA required additional testing and therefore additional follow-ups."

Many parents also wondered if some kids might need it more than others. He said all kids should get it, but yes that some children with certain conditions especially should get vaccinated - including, he said "kids with respiratory diseases, kids with asthma, kids with congenital defects, immunosuppressed conditions."

It's not clear yet when exactly clinics and pharmacies will be ready to administer doses, but Georgia DPH said earlier this month that they expected their first wave of orders to be fulfilled by today, June 20.

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