ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As local doctors continue the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 5, experts are discussing the importance of the shots. 

News 8’s Ally Peters spoke with Dr. Colleen Fogarty, the Chair of the University of Rochester Department of Family Medicine, about the vaccines and how we got where we are.

Where do we currently stand when it comes to pediatric vaccines for children under the age of 5?

“In mid-June, both the FDA and the CDC recommended emergency use of the Pfizer and Maderna vaccines for children ages six months and up,” Fogarty said. 

These vaccines are relatively new, why are they important for our health?

“Young children, just like anybody else, can become infected with COVID,” Fogarty said. “Sometimes they can get very sick with long-term complications, and often can spread the infection to others. The more people that get immunity from the vaccine, the more we can slow down the spread of COVID and the harm it does to individuals and the community.”

What are the potential side effects of these vaccines?

“The first thing to note is they’re very safe. These vaccines have been used in adults for nearly two years and in older children and teens,” Fogarty said. “Common effects are fever, sore arm, headache, or feeling tired, and these are actually the signs that the body is developing immunity and they don’t mean that your child is getting sick.”

How do these vaccines differ from the COVID vaccines given to children over 5 or even adults? 

“They’re exactly the same composition, they’re just a smaller dose, and that’s been shown in studies that the immunity is adequate from a smaller dose and the side effects are fewer,” Fogarty said.  

If parents or guardians are on the fence about getting their child vaccinated, what would you say to them?

“The more protection that all of us have, the more we’ll be able to stop the spread of COVID and on an individual level, giving your child the maximum protection against infections that can be serious, is really important,” Fogarty said. “Even if the child has already had COVID, it’s recommended to get the vaccine because it can add additional immunity for the next time the child may be exposed to COVID.”

Where can you get your child vaccinated?

You can receive a pediatric vaccine at local practices, pharmacies and county health department clinics. Contact your child’s primary care practice to schedule an appointment. The Golisano Children’s Hospital is offering the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children. You can sign up for the shot here.

Commercial pharmacies, like Wegmans, Walgreens and Walmart are also offering vaccines for children 3-years-old and up.