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San Diego doctors combat misinformation surrounding the COVID vaccine for children

Physicians on Wednesday's virtual panel stressed the safety and the importance of getting the Pfizer vaccine for kids, now that it's received emergency authorization

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — An online panel to combat misinformation surrounding coronavirus focused in large part Wednesday on the recently-authorized COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Earlier this year, San Diego County's Board of Supervisors declared COVID misinformation a "public health crisis."

To combat this, county leaders are taking action, including holding a number of online panels with medical experts to dispel myths surrounding the virus and the vaccine.

"I think it's compelling to say that kids do need the vaccine," said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady Children's Hospital. 

He pointed to the fact that among children ages 5 to 11, COVID-19 is currently the eighth leading cause of death.

"Kids between 5 and 11 are not supposed to be dying at all," he said. 

Physicians on Wednesday's virtual panel stressed the safety and the importance of getting the Pfizer vaccine, now that it has received emergency authorization for those 5 and older.

One of the most alarming side effects of the COVID vaccine among youngsters, which many anti-vaccination proponents have latched on to, is the risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle.

Medical experts concede that while this is a recognized side effect, it is not a reason to skip the vaccine.

"I want to assure people that it is exceedingly rare," Dr. Sawyer added. "Unlike the hospitalizations and heart problems from COVID itself."

In fact, doctors on Wednesday's panel stressed that a great deal of COVID misinformation stems from reported side effects online.

The site "Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System," for instance, is open to the public, and the CDC encourages people to report adverse side effects to the database after vaccination, even if they're not sure whether the vaccine caused the adverse event, meaning that data from this site should be interpreted with those limitations in mind.

"Just because something happens the day after you are vaccinated does not necessarily mean that the vaccine caused it.," Dr. Sawyer said.

The panel also tackled myths over mask-wearing by kids, pointing out it is often adults, not their children, who have the most difficulty with wearing a face covering.

"It does prevent, as do vaccinations. It prevents them from having to quarantine if they don't get COVID because they have their mask on," said Dr. Jeannette Aldous of San Ysidro Health. "So there is a real benefit to it."

Wednesday's COVID misinformation panel covered a wide range of other topics as well. If you'd like to check it out for yourself, click here.

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