With nearly 5 million children getting COVID vaccines, no safety problems have been seen, CDC director says

"If you want your children fully vaccinated by the holidays, now is the time."

December 10, 2021, 5:05 AM

With nearly 5 million children ages 5 to 11 now vaccinated against COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says real-world monitoring finds vaccines are safe for young children.

Crucially, the CDC hasn't identified any concerns with the temporary heart inflammation known as myocarditis, a potential side effect of mRNA vaccines seen in rare circumstances in teenagers and young adults.

"We haven't seen anything yet," Walensky told ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton in a rare in-person interview from CDC headquarters in Atlanta. "We have an incredibly robust vaccine safety system, and so if [problems] were there, we would find it."

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for children 5 to 11 years old in early November. Despite robust safety data, fewer than 1 in 5 children in this age group has receive their first dose.

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of parents of elementary school children said they didn't want to vaccinate their children or are holding off for now, according to a poll from the nonprofit KFF.

Walensky said that while new data is constantly emerging, one thing is clear: Vaccines are safe for young children.

"If you want your children fully vaccinated by the holidays, now is the time," Walensky said.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent, was given rare access inside the CDC's Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Matt Miller/ABC

In rare access, Ashton was invited inside the CDC's Emergency Operation Center, where the agency monitors data for potential threats to human health.

Another worrying trend the CDC is monitoring is the alarmingly low vaccination rate among pregnant women, despite overwhelming evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for mother and infant.

Less than 20% of pregnant people have received a vaccine during pregnancy, according to the CDC.

"I'm very concerned," said Walensky. "When I hear about a pregnant woman in the community who is not vaccinated, I personally pick up the phone and talk to them."

There is no evidence COVID-19 vaccines impact fertility, nor is there any scientific reason to believe they might harm fertility in the future.

Walensky said misinformation about the vaccine's impact on fertility has been one of her most challenging battles during the pandemic.

"The vaccines are safe, they are effective and they are even more important in pregnant women," she said.