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Should Teens Get the COVID-19 Vaccine? Advice from a Local Pediatrician

Aspirus Health

More and more people in Wisconsin are getting the COVID-19 vaccine – including kids.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for patients ages 12 to 15.

Now, more than 15 percent of Wisconsin kids between the ages of 12 and 15 have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

However, that number is smaller in most counties in Northeastern Wisconsin, where between 1 and 7 percent of kids in that age group have gotten vaccinated.

Much fewer kids have gotten the COVID shot than older adults, but kids are also much less likely to experience the severe side effects that COVID can cause.

So should they get vaccinated?

Dr. Jason Chan, a pediatrician with Aspirus Pediatrics Clinic in Wausau, says yes.

“Overall kids have been the smallest affected group to COVID. It’s not zero though,” he said. “COVID is one of the top 10 reasons why kids will die in the United States this year. [Kids] also play a role in spreading it to others.”

Dr. Chan said although the vaccine was developed quickly, it’s still safe.

It went through all of the steps that every other vaccine passes.

“The way that I think about it is, it’s like a home renovation where sometimes things get delayed because the cabinets aren’t ready or the electrician got pulled to a different job,” Dr. Chan said. “In this case, what we did was paid extra for overnight shipping. The safety testing was all the same. Vaccines remain some of the most tested things we put into our bodies, and that includes the COVID shot.”

He said some parents are worried about potential long-term side effects of the vaccine, which is understandable because no parent wants to put their child in harm’s way.

But Dr. Chan said, in this case, the risk of contracting COVID is much greater than the risk of the vaccine.

“What I tell parents is, in the history of vaccines, there’s never been any actual evidence linking a vaccine to a long-term detrimental side effect,” he said. “We keep very close eye on side effects and it’s not something we see.”

Dr. Chan also addressed rumors about the COVID-19 vaccines.

He said the vaccine does not cause infertility.

“Virus proteins are very different than human proteins,” he said. “Biologically there’s just no way that it could happen.”

He also said none of the vaccines can alter human DNA.

“That’s kind of like I get bit by a spider and now I’m spiderman,” he said. “In the mRNA vaccines, what happens is mRNA enters the cells and the immune system produces the antibodies to that mRNA, which is what causes immunity to things. It doesn’t actually change your DNA. The other thing is you ingest tons and tons of DNA every day in your food. We don’t turn into chickens or lettuce. That’s just not how it works.”

Wausau’s Aspirus Pediatrics Clinic is now offering the Pfizer vaccine for teens and adolescents over the age of 12. You can schedule an appointment on their website.

It’s also available at most pharmacies.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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