Pediatrician, Father Says Getting Children Vaccinated Is ‘Our Path Back to Normalcy’

Jay Lieberman, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the senior medical director of PRA Health Sciences, on the future of COVID-19 disease and vaccines for adolescents and children.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Jay Lieberman, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the senior medical director of PRA Health Sciences, on the future of COVID-19 disease and vaccines for adolescents and children.

Lieberman was a speaker at the World Vaccine Congress in a session on COVID-19 disease and vaccines for adolescents and children, specifically in light of his unique perspective on the subject due to having enrolled his twin daughters in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Alana Hippensteele: How has COVID-19 affected adolescents and pediatrics, and is there any urgency in the development of vaccine for these populations?

Jay Lieberman: Well, let me let me approach that from 2 perspectives. First of all, from the health perspective, we know that the elderly, people with underlying conditions, and adults have really borne the large burden of this disease and suffered the most illness and deaths.

We know that children and adolescents are less likely to get sick if they get infected, they're more likely to have asymptomatic infection, and they're less likely to develop serious illness.

But low risk doesn't mean no risk, and there have been thousands of children hospitalized. Children who get very ill from it—there's a condition we've learned of called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children that can be very serious, and potentially has long-term consequences that we don't understand. So, there are children who do suffer the consequences of getting sick.

The second perspective is that children have also suffered a significant toll in terms of their emotional and mental health. Because of the restrictions related to COVID-19, they have been able to attend school in person, they haven't been able to see their friends, they haven't been on the sports fields or in the dance studios, and that takes a real toll.

So, the sooner we can get teenagers back doing what they should be doing with their friends, the better their health will be overall.

Alana Hippensteele: Absolutely. What are some common concerns parents may have around getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19, and have these concerns been validated at all by research on the subject?

Jay Lieberman: Well, some of the current concerns are quite understandable. There's the newness of the vaccine, and I think having a healthy respect for something that's new is very reasonable.

In addition, there are concerns about whether they cut corners to bring the vaccine to people, and the reality is no corners were cut. Some red tape was cut, but the vaccines went through the normal steps they go through to get approved for use in people.

We also now have a lot of data. Hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated with these vaccines in the United States and elsewhere, and so we've learned a lot about the safety profile.

In the week after the Pfizer vaccine got authorized for use in children, the CDC announced that more than 600,000 12 to 15 year olds had been vaccinated. That's outstanding news, and that's our path back to normalcy.