COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio health leaders are encouraging parents to consider the COVID-19 vaccine for their children as the nation slowly prepares to make the vaccine available for every age group in the U.S.
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff held a press briefing on Thursday, addressing how advisers with the Food and Drug Administration voted in favor of authorizing vaccines for children as young as 6 months.
"The one group that has still been waiting has been our youngest children, less than five years of age, and now that seems likely to change," he said.
Children under 5 are the last age group in the U.S. without access to COVID-19 vaccines and many parents have been anxious to protect their little ones.
FDA advisers gave a thumbs-up to Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for U.S. infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
They voted unanimously on Wednesday that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risk for children under 5, which is roughly 18 million kids.
There are still some ways to go before the age group would be eligible for the vaccine, but shots could be available next week if all the regulatory steps are cleared.
"The fact that this process has taken some time is a reaffirmation of the seriousness and the scientific discipline of the approval process, and reassurance that the approval has not been rushed or based on incomplete data," Vanderhoff said.
Once the vaccine eligibility is approved, Vanderhoff said parents will then have many options to access the shots.
Surveys indicated that some parents are hesitant on getting their children the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. While there is hesitancy out there, Vanderhoff expressed that there are parents who are interested or eager to have the vaccine option for their kids.
"I'd like to emphasize how important it is for children to stay up to date on all recommended vaccines. And of course, some vaccines are required to attend Ohio's schools," Dr. Vanderhoff said.
Dr. Vanderhoff, along with Dr. Michael Forbes of Akron Children's Hospital and Dr. Grant Paulsen of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, said no new safety concerns were brought up during pediatric trials.
Parents who are concerned about the vaccine are encouraged to speak with physicians and providers for advice.
"Public health depends on private choices, and we want those private choices to be guided by evidence. and the evidence is overwhelming that the benefits for these vaccines far outweigh the risk. and as a parent we do want to prevent the preventable," Dr. Forbes.
During the press briefing, Dr. Vanderhoff addressed that there has been a modest rise in COVID-19 cases in the past two months.
"It tells us that COVID is still with us, and whether they are young or old, the fact is that the more Ohioans who are vaccinated, the better our chances of avoiding serious illness and disruption to our daily lives," he said.
Last week, the Ohio Department of Health reported 18,247 new cases and 549 additional hospitalizations. There are now a total of 2,798,900 coronavirus cases in the state.
ODH is expected to release new data on Thursday. The agency will not release data on COVID-19 deaths due to the installation of a new coding system.
Currently, 7,343,394 Ohioans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine -- which accounts for 62.82% of the state's population.