Last month, our readers had an opportunity to submit questions about COVID-19 vaccines for children. We took those questions to our local experts at Children’s Wisconsin and had the chance to connect with Dr. Kristin Bencik – a pediatrician at Children’s Wisconsin Bayshore Pediatrics. She is also an Assistant clinical professor at The Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Bencik sat down with us to talk through some of the frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for children.
We know the information provided will be helpful to moms as they choose the best health care options for their own families. We appreciate the time that Dr. Bencik took to address these questions. If you still have questions about vaccines – we encourage you to reach out to your trusted health care provider.
If I’m vaccinated, am I less likely to get long COVID? And how common is long COVID in children?
A: The data is still coming out there. And we know there’s a lot of underreporting of COVID. In adults, what we’ve seen so far in studies is that you’re a third less likely to develop long COVID if you are vaccinated. And kids, the studies are emerging, unfortunately, we are seeing more and more long COVID in kids. So we don’t have hard and fast data. But we do know that if you don’t get COVID, you’re not going to get long term COVID. And we know vaccinations help prevent disease and long term consequences. So it’s really important, especially in kids, as we’re starting to see more and more kids develop some signs of long COVID to protect your child the best way you can by vaccinating your child, and all the people around your child.
Why do they need to be vaccinated? Doesn’t getting COVID Give Kids natural immunity that works just as well as a vaccine?
A: You absolutely do get some natural immunity from COVID. However, you’re not necessarily going to get the same immunity. So one child might have a lot of immunity that lasts six months, another child might only have two weeks of immunity. So it’s not like I get COVID, I get a set dose of protection. And that lasts a set amount of time is variable, depending upon the child with the vaccine, you get a set dose of the protection, and we really have a good idea about how long it’s lasting.
And so that’s a really good question for parents. And it’s something that you want to individually come and talk with your physician about, but that protection is not going to last and your child might be the one who’s really not protected, and can turn around and get it again in a month.
Why would a child need a COVID vaccine when survival rates are so high in children?
A: If your child is affected by long COVID I don’t think you’re going to care that the mortality rate is low. It affected your child and every child important. This vaccine clearly prevents hospitalizations and deaths. There is no question about that the data is irrefutable. So why would you not protect your child against something that can prevent death and long term consequences?
When will the COVID vaccine be approved for those children under five years?
A: We are all waiting anxiously for that vaccine. As of right now, it’s looking like sometime in June is going to go to FDA for approval. I think what’s really important when we’re talking about vaccine safety is the fact that this has been backed up several times tells you how they’re looking at these vaccines. The data wasn’t there to support giving kids these vaccines yet. And we’re not going to give them until we know they work, and we know they’re safe.
Can kids get another vaccine, say like the flu shot at the same time that they get their COVID vaccine?
A: The way these vaccines work is these are not live vaccines. The mRNA sends a messenger which has your body protein, and then it breaks down that messenger. And that protein, your body says this is foreign, I’m going to attack it. So when it sees COVID, it goes and attacks it. So you can get multiple events at the same time, every day, our bodies are exposed to multiple things that we make antibodies against. And so it’s very, very safe to get COVID vaccine with multiple other vaccines.
About Dr. Kristin Bencik
- Primary care pediatrician, Children’s Wisconsin
- Assistant clinical professor, The Medical College of Wisconsin
I grew up in a suburb of Detroit with my three siblings and numerous pets. My parents are both teachers, and education was paramount in my house. I always knew that I wanted to be a doctor from the time I could talk. I went to University of Pennsylvania for my undergraduate degree, then return home to attend Michigan State University for medical school. I completed my pediatric residency at the University of Michigan. I met my husband, Jason, during my internship and he is the reason I am now in Wisconsin. Since moving to Milwaukee, I have had four wonderful (most of the time) kids and a menagerie of pets. We are now up to two border collies, a mean bunny, a gecko and tons of fish!
We have lived in the same house in Whitefish Bay since I moved here form Michigan. I love living in a community in which I work, and being an active member of the community is very important to me. I have served on multiple school committees, including the WFB drug task force and am the PTO scholarship chair. In addition, I have been the health advisor and board member for a local preschool. I perform alumni interviews for high school seniors that are applying to my alma mater, Penn. Finally, I have done numerous interviews for the local TV stations in regards to breaking health news.
I diagnosed myself with celiac (an autoimmune disease again gluten) several years ago, an unfortunately my oldest son developed it. I also have multiple food allergies. Learning to live with food restrictions and having a child with it has been challenging, but also helps me to appreciate what parents of kids with food allergies are dealing with. i also have a special interest in promoting healthy diets and exercises, and trying to help those kids with obesity.
I fully admit to being a crazy soccer mom, as my kids and several of my patients will attest to! I enjoy watching football and hockey games (Packers, Lions, and the REd Wings- cant completely take the Detroit out of me!) The things I love to do in my free time include going to soccer games and other kids activities, taking the dogs for a jog around the Bay, doing Zumba, and reading.
Being a pediatrician is truly an amazing and rewarding experience. I know how fortunate I am to say that I truly love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else. From the anxious expecting parents, to the vulnerable newborns, to terrible twos, and on to the pre-teen and teenage years – I get to help parents and children navigate through it all. In no other field is it as important to work as a team with a family. Open communication and trust is an essential part of pediatrics. I love watching the kids grow and develop, from newborns to young adults! It’s great to have the mom of the baby who always cried when I came into the room tell me her toddler is dressing up and pretending to be Dr. B, or when they see me at school drop off and tell me they ate their veggies that day. I would love to meet with you to talk about how I can help you navigate this wonderful adventure called parenthood!
- 1997, Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), DO
- 2001, CS Mott Children’s Hospital (Ann Arbor, MI) – Pediatrics