‘Get Your Kids Vaccinated,’ Albany Med Pediatric Infectious Disease Doctor

With this week’s FDA approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, Albany Med pediatric infectious disease specialist Debra Tristram, MD, has advice for concerned parents: Don’t hesitate. Vaccinate.

“Looking at the vaccine trial that’s already been completed and the information that’s out, it’s shown to be as safe as it is in adults and even better in terms of the effectiveness,” said Dr. Tristram, division chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease, referring to a Phase 3 clinical trial conducted on nearly 3,000 participants. “None of the kids that were vaccinated in that trial got Covid, and they actually had better immune responses than the next age group up.”

Dr. Tristram speaks from experience when she urges parents to get their children vaccinated. She estimated she’s seen two dozen kids in Albany Med’s Pediatric ICU with multisystem inflammatory system (MIS-C), a serious condition found in children who have tested positive for Covid-19 that impacts the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs.

One teenager in respiratory distress “came this close to getting intubated and being on a ventilator,” she said, holding her thumb and index finger a half-inch apart. Another child she treated had “such shortness of breath that the child could not speak a sentence, just one word at time” without gasping for breath.

“The kids that we have coming in, they’re sick,” she cautioned.

For parents of children with underlying health issues, such as allergies or asthma, Dr. Tristram encourages them to have a conversation with their pediatrician. “Children that have underlying diseases are far more vulnerable to having serious infection and complications from Covid than they are from the vaccine. Protecting them is a good idea.”

For those who contend that children don’t need the vaccine because kids don’t really get as sick as often, Dr. Tristram said parents need to consider the bigger picture. “The other piece is vaccinating your own child protects people in your family who might be vulnerable, who may or may not be able to get the vaccine. But it protects not only the family but other kids in school that may be vulnerable or other members of the community. It’s a responsible thing to do. And it will let kids go back to being kids.”

Dr. Tristram dispels some common myths and misperceptions circulating about the Covid-19 vaccine, namely that it will affect children’s DNA and impact fertility in young girls and women. The vaccine “doesn’t get into any body part that’s going to affect fertility or your DNA. It’s a messenger RNA, it makes a protein, that’s it. It doesn’t go anywhere to cause problems for you in the future.”

The bottom line for parents: “Get your kids vaccinated – it’s safe,” said Dr. Tristram. “My ‘kids’ are young adults but they are all vaccinated, as am I. If you had seen the suffering I have seen, you would do it, too.”