‘More older teenagers get very sick’: NYC pediatrician weighs in on booster for 16- and 17-year-olds
STATEN ISLAND, NY — Federal officials are working to approve the coronavirus (COVID-19) booster injection for teens ages 16 to 17, and one of Staten Island’s top pediatricians says it’s important for members of this age group to keep the get shot as soon as it becomes available and they are eligible.
dr. Brian McMahon, a pediatric chair at Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC), explained that while teens are not at as high a risk of serious illness from COVID-19 as older adults, they are more at risk than younger children — and should therefore receive the booster dose.
“You can’t assume they aren’t immune to the long-distance symptoms [of COVID-19] like the people who have the brain fog,” McMahon said. “I agree that when it comes out, I imagine it will be six months after your first two doses that you should get a booster. I’ve heard very few reactions to the booster, so I think it’s a good thing.”
On Nov. 19, vaccine boosters were approved for all adults ages 18 and older, previously only approved for people with compromised immune systems and other chronic illnesses. Last week, Pfizer-BioNTech announced it plans to apply for an emergency authorization (EUA) that will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to receive a booster vaccine against the coronavirus.
And after the omicron variant was identified as a cause of concern by the World Health Organization, health officials are urging anyone eligible to get the booster shot.
According to McMahon, all fully vaccinated people should receive the booster shot six months after they receive their second dose. That’s because vaccine immunity lessons evolve over time.
“I think getting the booster doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I compare it to the situation with the flu. Every year we get a flu vaccine because every year there is a variant, and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], they’re looking at what’s happening regarding this year and looking at the winter of 2020 in the southern hemisphere, and they’re trying to extrapolate what species will emerge.”
McMahon said many people who have received the booster shot experience no symptoms, and when they do, they are mild. According to a CDC study, people who received a booster shot said their symptoms were similar to those reported after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or after their first dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The reactions were often reported in the week after their booster, usually the day after vaccination. The most commonly reported symptoms, according to the CDC, are injection site pain, fatigue and headache.
And if you have been fully vaccinated and are still infected with the coronavirus, you will have to wait at least three months from the end of the illness before getting a booster.
“Your system is still kind of reacting to the disease and it can cause a side effect, you know, a flare-up of symptoms,” McMahon explained.
He said the coronavirus vaccine was created to prevent serious illness. The COVID-19 vaccine and boosters are given to guard against the worst-case scenario. For the people who contract the coronavirus, many experience mild symptoms, such as loss of smell or taste, and get better afterwards.
But some people don’t get mild symptoms and don’t get better, McMahon said.
That’s why he said he believes it’s better to be vaccinated than not vaccinated. He still encourages people of all eligible ages to get the coronavirus vaccine, including 16- and 17-year-olds once they become eligible.
“It’s a similar way of thinking about COVID,” he said. “Many of us will get COVID and will have these strange symptoms like loss of smell, loss of taste, feeling miserable for a few days and getting over it. But it is going to threaten the lives of many of us, hence the importance of the vaccine.”
He added, “As they get older, we see more older teens getting really sick…so I like the idea of vaccinating 16 and 17 year olds and booster doses.”
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