COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Despite the drop in new weekly COVID-19 cases, the South Carolina chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is strongly encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they’re eligible.

SC AAP President Bob Saul said, “Fortunately things are down now. It would be naive to think things won’t go back up at some point, especially with the winter and holiday breaks.”

Dr. Saul said the surge in child hospitalizations with COVID-19 caused by the emergence of the Delta variant showed COVID-19 is a serious threat to children. He said, “There’s greater risk for long COVID and MIS-C, than there is from the vaccine in any way shape or form.”

Vaccinations could begin as soon as Wednesday for some children aged 5-11, pending approval of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine for that age range.

Dr. Saul said he’s hopeful parents will make the decision to vaccinate their children. “The initial numbers I’ve read show 25-30% of folks will eagerly seek out the vaccine. Others will be hesitant and there will be a ‘no-way’ group. Experts say that mirrors what we saw when the vaccine became available for adults.”

Right now, the state health department says about 33% of South Carolinians between the ages of 12-19 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Dr. Saul recommends parents consult with their child’s doctor.

“We’re going to do our darndest to get the proper messaging out there. There’s been so much misinformation out there in terms of risk of the vaccine and long term effects of the vaccine that people have lost track of the effects of the disease for the children but their caretakers as well,” Dr. Saul said.