40: Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccines

Dr. Jose Romero, a pediatrician and Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, discusses COVID-19 vaccines for kids and parental hesitancy; ASTHO leaders discuss the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) process during a national workshop...

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Dr. Jose Romero, a pediatrician and Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, discusses COVID-19 vaccines for kids and parental hesitancy; ASTHO leaders discuss the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) process during a national workshop that starts today; Avia Mason, ASTHO’s Vice President of Learning Strategy, outlines the benefits of the Insight and Inspiration speaker series; and ASTHO offers a training for contact tracers looking to improve their remote contact tracing skills.

The National Academies Webpage: FDA EUA Workshop

Pfizer News Release: Topline results for COVID-19 vaccine in children 5 to 11 years

ASTHO Webpage: Insight and Inspiration

ASTHO Resource: Making contact: A training for COVID-19 case investigators and contact tracers

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday, October 5th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


ASTHO leadership taking part in a conversation today about the FDA's historic use of emergency use authorizations in response to the pandemic.

The two-day workshop is hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Participants will review the current framework and discuss whether revisions would boost public trust in the EUA process.

ASTHO president Dr. Nirav Shah, ASTHO president-elect Dr. Anne Zink, and ASTHO CEO Mike Fraser are planning to attend the meeting.


Meanwhile, drugmaker Pfizer said in late September that it plans to seek an EUA for its COVID-19 vaccine for children five to 11 years old. Parents, teachers, and pediatricians all watching closely as work on a formula safe for kids continues.

Dr. Jose Romero is a pediatrician and secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health. He's talking with us about pediatric COVID vaccines and hesitant parents in today's morning conversation.

How important is it that we get our younger kids vaccinated against COVID-19?


I think it is important, and the reason why is that, you know, as long as we have that sizable population susceptible to infection, you know, there's always that continued risk of spreading the virus into the adult population.

I think that as this virus becomes endemic, you know, children are gonna be very important in serving as—and I mean this affectionately because I love children—but they're going to be the vectors that will transmit this into the community. And we know that we see this with influenza; school absenteeism goes up, and then we start to see large numbers of cases in the general population.

So, the kids are going to be very important in controlling this pandemic and controlling the endemic form of the disease.


Pediatric COVID-19 vaccines are being tested right now, and we think they're not too far off.

But about one third of parents say they would get their kids vaccinated while the rest have questions—some won't do it at all, others are going to only do it if they're required to.

How can we convince those hesitant parents, which are most of the parents, to say yes to this process?


I think it's going to be education and really pointing out that COVID is not as benign a disease as everybody's making it out to be with children.

And we presented data last week, at the Infectious Diseases Society meeting for ID week, of our data here during the Delta surge, and what we saw was a statistically significant increase in the number of hospitalizations and a statistically significant increase in the amount of children on ventilators. So, I don't know if that's related just to the Delta variant itself or other issues—we need to look deeper into it.

But you know, that's going to be my message going forward is that, in our state, we saw many more kids admitted to the hospital, many more kids that wound up having severe complications to wind up on a ventilator.


There's a lot of news about therapies that are being developed.

Does that impact parents' willingness to consider vaccination for their kids?


You know, I think that, as antivirals become available like we have for children—you know, Tamiflu, oseltamivir, things like that—I think parents may believe that that is a better route; but we all know that vaccination is really the best route to preventing disease and preventing complications.

We don't want to have to treat this. What we want to do is prevent it from becoming a disease.


You mentioned earlier that kids will end up being a primary source of the virus, just in the communities at large.

Is there any way, then, to end the pandemic without vaccinating most kids against the virus?


I think that it's going to be difficult to do so. I think that we're going to have to begin to really get that population now, you know.

Eventually I think that the pandemic will, if you will, burn out if you don't get enough vaccination in there, but it'll still be yearly cycles of the disease. So, then it becomes an endemic outbreak once a year, if it becomes seasonal, in the winter.

So, the pandemic will burn out, but it will probably take longer.



If you're looking for a little inspiration, ASTHO has an event coming up that might help.

The Insight and Inspiration series continues October 20th, featuring a discussion about public health leadership with journalist and author Sebastian Junger.

ASTHO's Avia Mason is vice president of learning strategy.


ASTHO really established the Insight and Inspiration series—with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—in an effort to give a pause in the day of those really busy public health practitioners who need a little pick me up.

We're embodying thought leaders, authors, really strategic thinkers, to be able to support those who are working on the front line and motivate them to keep going; because they're doing phenomenal work, and we're hoping that they can take a few minutes out of their day to really connect back to why it is that they're serving in public health.

We know that public health is a field that is really people-driven, is service-driven. And so, these are people that really want to make a difference in their communities and give their all. So, we're hoping that, through the Insight and Inspiration series, we're able to give just a little bit back to help their days go better.



Finally this morning, ASTHO has a new contact tracing curriculum available online. It was developed with the National Coalition of STD Directors.

The program is focused on helping learners improve their remote contact tracing skills.


Find a link to the training and a link to register for the next Insight and Inspiration conversation in the show notes.


Also, remember to follow us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or listen on Alexa or Google assistant.

And, if you have a minute, please take time to leave us a rating and a review.


Join us tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.

Jose Romero MD

Secretary of Health, Arkansas Department of Health

Avia Mason

Vice President of Learning Strategy, ASTHO