Should Children Be Vaccinated for COVID-19?
With the recent announcement that the FDA and CDC have approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, parents rightfully have a lot of questions about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, and whether it’s even necessary given the lower rate of serious infection in kids. We’re here to answer any questions you may have about the impact of these vaccines on children and their families.
First thing’s first: Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children ages 5-11?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines have been thoroughly tested in clinical trials focused specifically on their effects on children. The results have shown that the vaccine is 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5-11.
For more information on the clinical trials, visit this site from the Mayo Clinic.
How does the children’s COVID-19 vaccine differ from those available to adults?
Pfizer’s dosage for ages 5-11 is one-third of the dosage used for teens and adults (10 micrograms versus 30 micrograms). Other than that, the process is the same: two vaccines, three weeks apart, with full immunization two weeks after the second dose.
Kids are less likely than adults are to get seriously ill from COVID-19. Why do they need to be vaccinated?
There are two major reasons why children should be vaccinated, sooner rather than later:
While children generally experience milder cases of COVID-19, there’s still a chance that they can require hospitalization. According to the CDC, the rise of the Delta variant actually resulted in a massive surge of children hospitalized with the virus this summer. Kids may also experience long-term effects following recovery, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). MIS-C is associated with a surge of inflammation of the blood vessels, specifically with the heart and coronary arteries, and can cause serious organ damage.
Even if children don’t show symptoms of COVID-19, they can act as asymptomatic carriers. This means that a child who interacts with someone infected with COVID-19 can pass the virus onto others, including family members, classmates, and teachers (all of whom can then spread the virus further). Research suggests that children may even be likely vessels for the virus to evolve new variants, ones that could make all of us sicker.
What if my child already had COVID-19? Do they still need to be vaccinated?
Yes. We still don’t know how long immunity lasts in children, so getting them vaccinated is still the most effective way to keep kids healthy and protected in the long run and stop the spread of COVID-19.
What are the side effects?
The vaccine’s side effects in children mirror those in adults, although milder: injection site pain and redness, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea, swollen lymph nodes, and temporarily feeling lousy. These symptoms generally occur about two days after getting the shot, and they can last 1-3 days.
Can my child be vaccinated if they are allergic to eggs or latex?
My child is scared of vaccines/needles. How can I help them?
A great question, and one that many parents have asked.
The best advice for helping children get vaccinated is to keep them calm and distracted. Ask them to look away from the needle, take slow, deep breaths, or hold your hand, and remind them of the good things they can do once they’re vaccinated. Maybe have something fun planned for afterward. CNN has more great tips.
And a pro tip from the author, who was petrified of needles all the way through high school: Ask for or invest in a reusable shot blocker. It stimulates the nerves around the injection site, so your child is less likely to feel the needle. A pediatrician’s office is more likely to keep one on hand, but they can be found online at Amazon and eBay.
How can I get my child a vaccination appointment?
MaineHealth recommends that children receive their vaccines through a school-based clinic and offers a list of sites. Walgreens also offers vaccines for kids ages 5-11. NewsCenter Maine has provided a comprehensive, up-to-date list of additional options.
Expanding access to vaccines for everyone ages 5 and up marks an incredible step in beating this pandemic. Roughly 94% of all Americans are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, getting us that much closer to post-COVID freedom. Vaccinations protect you, your loved ones, and your community.