The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in kids ages 12 to 15. While Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are currently conducting vaccine clinical trials for this age group, there is a great possibility that they could receive emergency use authorization in the coming months. (CDC, 2021)
With nearly 17 million children in the United States eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, a lot of health experts are urging parents and guardians to inoculatetheir children.
Apart from protecting children against COVID-19, the vaccine gives them a ticket to doing a lot of things they weren’t doing before, most importantly, being indoors with friends without masks. Parents can be confident the Pfizer vaccine is safe for those ages 12 and up, and it will protect them against contracting and spreading COVID-19.
Vaccination is going to play an important role in helping to end this pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone ages 12 and up should be vaccinated against COVID-19, but, understandably, parents may have some questions before having their children vaccinated.
As a healthcare facility, we want parents to make a decision that they feel comfortable with. We’ll try to answer questions you may have about the COVID-19 vaccination in kids.
Q: How do we know the Pfizer vaccine is safe for 12- to 15-year-olds?
A: The Pfizer vaccine is safe because it was studied among thousands of youth between the ages of 12 and 15. The exact dosage was studied, the interval between doses was studied—everything went through the proper protocols and was intensely monitored.
Only after the vaccine had gone through a rigorous evaluation of being safe and effective is why it received emergency use authorization. (Washington Post, 2021)
Q: If kids don’t contract severe cases of COVID-19 as often as adults do, why should they be vaccinated?
A: While the research shows that children do not land in the ICU due to COVID-19 as often as adults and we don’t know whether children who experience a milder form of COVID-19 will have long-term health effects, like mild or asymptomatic asthma or damage to the heart muscle.
Other COVID-19 related problems we see are significant mental health issues in kids and we’re seeing more anxiety, more hospitalization from suicide attempts, more academic struggles and failures. We’re seeing children with weight gain who are becoming pre-diabetic and facing sleep issues. While vaccines won’t stop these maladies for our children, they can be a reassurance to your child that they are less vulnerable to the dangers of the virus.
Children have suffered tremendously and getting vaccinated is the key to allowing them to be able to socialize, have fun, go to school—and just get back to being kids.
Q: Are there any kids who shouldn’t get vaccinated?
A: Parents of any child who had an allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past, or who is allergic to any of the ingredients in the currently authorized vaccines, should have a thorough discussion with their pediatrician before deciding whether the vaccine is safe for their child.
Q: Can kids with underlying health conditions get vaccinated?
A: Yes. All the kids who are experiencing or having health conditions whether it is mild or a chronic illness should be getting vaccinationated. Health issues weaken immune systems and make these kids particularly at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
Q: What vaccine side effects can kids expect?
A: The side effects experienced in kids are similar to the side effects experienced by adults. After both doses—most noticeably after the second dose—they might experience muscle tenderness, injection-site pain, fever, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
This compilation of symptoms should last no more than two days and can be treated with Tylenol and rest.
In some cases, kids may experience more intense side effects than adults because their immune systems are more robust, but rest assured, it shows the vaccine is working. They can’t contract COVID-19 from the vaccine rather it just shows they are developing immunity from it.
Q: If my kids recently received other vaccinations, do they have to wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: No, they don’t have to wait. This is good news because kids require a lot of vaccinations.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen a decline in vaccinations, and we’re trying to encourage families to stay on schedule. It’s great to know that they can continue with other vaccinations while getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Q: How should I prepare my child for vaccination?
A: In preparing for any vaccine, all children are different. Some kids roll with it, others are fearful of needles.
Most important is you know your child and how they respond to these things so if you have an anxious child, don’t tell them about it weeks in advance which leaves them a long period to worry or become anxious about it.
For some kids, it helps to know exactly what is going to happen every step of the way and in such cases, you can explain the process to them.
And be honest with your kids by letting them know that they may feel a pinch, but afterward, it will be over.
If they experience side effects after vaccination, it’s fine to give them Tylenol for a fever, pain, and soreness. But don’t give it to them before vaccination—only after, and only when they experience pain—as it could blunt the immune response.
Q: When will the vaccines be approved for kids younger than 12? How will we know they’re safe?
A: This is all being evaluated as we speak. We truly hope that by fall of 2021 we’ll have vaccine availability for younger children.
In your deliberation and consideration of the vaccine, we encourage parents to make sure they are getting information from trusted sources such as public health systems, the CDC, and the FDA.
There are a lot of myths on social media and the internet which can make parents anxious and overwhelmed with decisions like this. If you have any questions, we highly encourage you to reach out to your pediatrician. Don’t feel reluctant to do so. Doctors are more than willing to have this conversation with families. If you don’t have a family physician or pediatrician, now is the time to engage with one. Knowing how the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children is paramount in preparing to get them vaccinated.
“COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 2021, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/adolescents.html.
Bever, Lindsey. “Should My Child Get a Coronavirus Vaccine? Is It Safe? Here’s What You Should Know.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 June 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/06/11/covid-vaccine-children-faq/
“COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids: What You Need to Know.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 May 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/covid-19-vaccines-for-kids/art-20513332