Dr. Vittorio Answers Parents’ Questions About COVID Vaccines for Children

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We know that many parents still have a lot of questions about COVID-19 vaccines for children, so we polled the Duluth Mom audience over the last few weeks and found that many of the questions that you had were similar among families. Recently, Dr. Vittorio sat down with Andrea and answered some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions.

Introducing Dr. Addie Vittorio, MD

Dr. Addie Vittorio | Duluth Mom
Dr. Addie Vittorio is a Family Medicine doctor at St. Luke’s here in Duluth, MN.  Her areas of interest include women’s health, geriatric medicine, procedural family medicine, pediatrics, nutrition, medical education, and Department of Transportation (DOT) physicals. She attended medical school at the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis and completed her residency at the Duluth Family Practice Residency Program here in Duluth.

Your Questions Answered

Question 1: Doesn’t getting COVID give kids natural immunity that works just as well as a vaccine?

Dr. Vittorio: Well, you’re right that it does give kids natural immunity and any infection will. What we know about the coronaviruses is that a lot of them are common cold viruses. So if you start to think about how many times you get the cold a year, the immunity from a natural infection wanes, and so it wanes, either similar or even more so than getting a vaccine. And the other thing we know is that obviously there are sub variants of Coronavirus. And so when you get Coronavirus, you may have gotten one of the Omicron variants, and that means you have fairly robust immunity for a period of time versus that variant. But as we know, that changes over time. And so, we do see that, you know three months later, you can actually get a second Coronavirus infection just as severe as the last of a different sub variant. So my advice would be you know, don’t roll the dice. The Coronavirus vaccines are very effective against multiple variants. So you’re protecting yourself not against one but multiple variants and highly likely in the future that it will include more variants for effectiveness. And the vaccines are very effective in preventing disease as well as hospitalization and severe illness in children.

Question 2: What are the short- or long-term possible effects of COVID vaccines? And how can you be absolutely certain that these vaccines are safe for children when we have such limited data on long term effects?

Dr. Vittorio: Well, the issue of safety in the vaccines is that these vaccines are made of very, they’re made of the exact same ingredients that we’ve used on adults. Now adults are not children, children are not adults, but they are very similar in the way that we produce immunity. Most of the additives and other things of the vaccines that allow for safe storage and other you know, positive things to the vaccine are eliminated from the body nearly immediately in the first one to three days and you are right, you will get side effects from the vaccine. The side effects are headaches, you may develop a mild fever, some people do experience some GI side effects such as nausea. There have been reports of diarrhea, but in general, these are very mild considering the effect of what an actual COVID related illness could be. A lot of people are concerned about the mild risk of cardiomyopathy, especially in young teens, teen males in general, and there is a slight increase in that however, getting the actual Coronavirus as an active infection puts you at far greater risk of these severe complications.

Question 3: If you have any children of your own, {which you do} what vaccine decision did you make and why? If you don’t have children, what have you told your friends and family members about vaccinating their children?

Dr. Vittorio: I think I can probably answer from both perspectives. Because as a physician, we obviously have relatives who asked questions about this as well. I, myself have five children. So I have a three month old, who cannot get the vaccine. And that is actually the major reason why my other children have gotten the vaccine. I have an 18 month old, who has yet to get the vaccine, but I’m eager to sort of have that roll out to her age group. And then my boys are 9, 11, and 14, and they’ve all received their COVID shots, as well as my older has received his booster. There’s a lot of reasons why he chose to…one is because I strongly believe that these vaccines are safe to give to children. And I have actually seen kids, including my young daughter, who got COVID, have very, very severe illness from this. Another reason is we’ve spent two years in the pandemic. And my school aged children have really suffered with regards to their social interactions, some of their sports and other things to sort of keep them emotionally and physically active. And so, in doing the vaccine, my older children have been able to participate in life a little bit more and not necessarily have to be out with random illnesses for longer periods of time that may or may not have been COVID. We did go through COVID In my household, contracted through a local sports organization. And my daughter got very, very sick, sicker than I’ve ever seen her and I was very sick as well. And so I firsthand have sort of seen the effects that the actual illness can have.

Another thing to sort of know is that your risk of, if you are pregnant, of getting a COVID related complication is quite high. And so the risk of having preterm labor or pregnancy induced hypertension, preeclampsia, is about five fold. And in some cases, 20 fold in some populations. And I myself, experienced that and had a five week preterm delivery due to those complications. So your risk if you don’t have children is fairly high in pregnancy, and hence another reason why relatives and other people should vaccinate to protect you.

Question 4: Does my child need a booster shot? Are our children eligible?

Dr. Vittorio: Children, I believe who are 12 and up are eligible for their booster right now. We have not yet determined whether boosters are effective in younger children in the long term or not. I think this is all going to be sort of coming in the future. I think what we’ll likely see is that this is going to turn into an annual immunization. And so there may or may not be a booster for first time vaccinated persons. But certainly, every year, there will likely be an analysis of what sub variants are out there right now and what we can immunize against and potentially giving that. Now the hard thing is how to give that with Coronavirus, which is not a seasonal related issue versus the flu. We know the flu occurs most strongly between October and March, April. And we know that Coronavirus happens all the time.

Thank you to all of you who took the time to submit questions for review. We wish we had time to get to all of them. We appreciate your willingness to engage in this conversation so we all can make the best choice for our families.

Catch the Full Video Interview with Dr. Vittorio Here!

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A lake girl at heart, Andrea is thrilled to be a Minnesota resident once again! Originally from the Iron Range, she has called North Dakota home for nearly the last decade. She moved to the area this past November with her husband Yu, their two year old daughter Charlee, and their chihuahua rescue named Tink. Her passions include: her dear friends, feel good music, great food, philanthropy, volunteerism, hunger relief, hospitality, event planning and most importantly...coffee!! You will find her scoping out local coffee shops, with or without Charlee, any and every day of the week! You can follow her on Instagram @andrea_coffeeholic

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