Photo/Illutration A 7-year-old boy receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Maryland on Nov. 10. (Yuko Lanham)

With the government preparing to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations for kids, many parents are now weighing the benefits and risks of having their children inoculated.

The health ministry has told local governments to prepare to start vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 from as early as around February.

That's good news for the parents of a girl in Osaka who will turn 5 in January and be eligible for the vaccine.

“I want to have my daughter vaccinated after the inoculations of children actually begin and if everything goes OK,” said her mother, a 34-year-old company employee.

Her husband, 36, also a company employee, has been worried about the Omicron variant.

The couple has already received two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine themselves and did not suffer any major side effect.

He said they are not strongly opposed to having their daughter vaccinated because of that.

“If we will have difficulty traveling even domestically unless we are vaccinated, then I want to (have my daughter vaccinated) so that we can enjoy (traveling),” he said.

But a 36-year-old female company employee who lives in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward with her daughter, who will soon turn 6 and start attending elementary school in the spring, said she and her husband disagree on the issue.

“I want her to get vaccinated early once it is approved,” she said. “As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued for this long, I want prepare my child for (her school life) as much as possible.”

But her 37-year-old husband is opposed to vaccinating the child.

He thinks the unknown risks exceed the benefits of vaccination, considering that children are believed to be less likely to develop severe symptoms if they are infected with the novel coronavirus.

“If something happens 20 years from now, I don't want to be responsible for that even as a parent,” he said. “As long as my daughter can’t make a decision on her own, I don’t think she should be forced to get vaccinated." 

The couple has yet to decide what to do and remained as far apart as ever, he said.

A 41-year-old female nurse, who works at a hospital in Osaka that takes in COVID-19 patients, is expected to receive a booster shot soon.

But she is unsure about having her two children, a 10-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter, vaccinated.

“I hope therapeutic drugs for (COVID-19) become widely available so they will not have to be inoculated,” she said.

She said her husband, who is a company employee, became sick for two days with a high fever after being vaccinated.

She has seen patients, very few in number though, being admitted to her hospital for an adverse reaction after being jabbed.

“Children are less likely to develop severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19. So how much benefit will there be for vaccinating my children?” she wondered.

At the same time, she said she is worried about her children contracting the novel coronavirus and suffering from long-term effects.

“I have no answer,” she said.

Her son said, “I am afraid of the vaccine, but I am more afraid of contracting the coronavirus.”

“If my mother says I don’t have to be vaccinated, then I don’t want to be vaccinated. But if she says I have to, I might get vaccinated,” he said.

In Japan, a COVID-19 vaccine for children from 5 to 11 has yet to be approved.

In the United States, such children have been recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. since November.

The amount of active ingredient in a vaccine for children from 5 to 11 is a third of the dose for children aged 12 or older. 

The vaccine is administered twice with a three-week break in between.

According to a clinical trial, its efficacy in the prevention of developing severe symptoms is 90.7 percent.

Children who contracted the virus after receiving a vaccine developed only mild symptoms, according to the findings of the clinical trial.

Out of about 3,100 children who received the vaccine, no serious adverse effect was reported among the recipients, according to the result.

(This article was written by Kumiko Yamane and Takashi Endo.)