By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As students are now out for the summer, and travel and family gatherings pick up, doctors encourage parents to get their children ages 12 and up vaccinated against COVID-19.

Summer is supposed to be the time of year when sickness subsides.

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However, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital says this year, that is not the case.

As so-called “COVID fatigue” some people may be getting lax on the precautions that kept other viruses at bay.

“We have common viruses such as RSV [Respiratory Syncytial Virus] and Influenza that we really didn’t see any this past year, and now we are seeing a significant uptick,” says Dr. Marcos Mestre, Chief Medical Officer at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

“Particularly in the summer, when we don’t see these viruses. Right now, we are busier than we have been pre-COVID,” he says. “In our emergency department, visits are up by 25% compared to pre-COVID in 2019.”

“It’s really no surprise what when we remove masks, colds, respiratory viruses and illnesses are going to go up,” says Dr. Jacob Seligsohn, incoming chair of the Pediatric Associates Education Committee. He says cold and COVID symptoms can present similarly in children with congestion or sore throat.

“With allergies, you would not expect a fever. Of course, in the common cold or COVID you may get a fever,” he explains. “I would say if there’s any of those symptoms, the first line of defense would be to contact their pediatrician and have the child come in and be examined, just to make sure, if it is a cold or COVID, that there’s no secondary illness coming after it, meaning if it’s going into the chest or anything worse.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and older to protect not only themselves but also adults in their household.

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“It would prevent the transmission and illness from being spread to parents or grandparents, who, unfortunately, if they do happen to succumb to COVID, may not fare as well as a younger child,” says Dr. Seligsohn.

Sore arm and a slight fever are the most common side effects. Dr. Mestre speaks to some of the questions he receives.

“In terms of affecting pregnancy in young females, that has not been shown to be true,” he says.

There are also rare reports of heart inflammation in some patients 16 and older

“Those are largely very mild cases,” Dr. Mestre says. “We’ve had a few of those here at the hospital that were resolved with anti-inflammatories and do not leave any long-term effects on the heart.”

He says the risks of COVID far outweigh any side effects and to continue best practices to stay healthy

“Between the vaccine the social distancing and the mask-wearing, I think all the children can still look forward to a fun summer and having a good time, Dr. Seligsohn says.

Dr. Mestre says 25% of adolescents have been behind on their standard vaccines and that it is very important to keep up with regular pediatrician visits.

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Nicklaus Children’s Hospital offers COVID vaccines three days a week for those ages 12-21.

Karli Barnett