With the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, millions of parents breathed a sigh of relief. Their kids were offered another tool for protection against COVID-19.
Still, many parents have questions or doubts. As a pediatrician with two children of my own, I completely understand and encourage parents to get the facts before making a decision like vaccination. With that in mind, here are answers to common questions doctors are hearing.
Why is the vaccine so important for kids?
I absolutely endorse the COVID-19 vaccine for my patients, just as I would for my own children. Here’s why: The vaccine can prevent severe infection or hospitalization in kids – and, yes, kids can become seriously ill from COVID-19. They also can become infected with COVID-19 as easily as adults, and they are just as contagious as adults. Two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, over 90% of children showed a sufficient immune response.
Additionally, getting vaccinated can help get us back to a state of normalcy and let kids be kids. The vaccine will allow families to resume more normal activities while decreasing the amount of school missed due to infection or quarantine policies.
Why did it take longer for a children’s dose of the vaccine to be approved?
I know it’s frustrating that this process has taken this long. But all pediatricians will tell you that our patients are not just little adults. They have their own specific physiology and immune function – and they require unique dosing and scheduling when it comes to vaccines.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for kids?
All vaccine side effects are closely monitored by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Many reports you may have seen of serious side effects and even death following vaccination are misrepresentations of data or outright misinformation.
The vaccine is safe for children, and here’s an example of scientific safeguards at work: As adolescents started to become further vaccinated over the summer, some mild cases of heart inflammation were noted mostly in adolescent males after their second dose. With this finding, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called on Pfizer-BioNTech to increase its trial size for the 5- to 11-year-old age group, which it did. During the trial for younger children, there were no reported cases of heart inflammation.
Is this a two-dose series? What side effects can children expect?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children is a two-dose series dosed three weeks apart. Possible side effects for children are similar to those seen in adults. They include fever, fatigue, headache and muscle soreness at the injection site. It’s a good idea to have acetaminophen or ibuprofen on hand to treat a possible fever or injection site discomfort.
Could children miss school because of side effects? Should we wait until closer to the holidays?
It’s possible that children may miss a day of school due to side effects. Of course, this is far better than missing over a week of school due to a COVID-19 infection. I recommend getting your child vaccinated as soon as possible so they can start building immunity in preparation for holiday get-togethers.
Are there any children who should not get the vaccine?
If your child has an immunodeficiency, is on a medication that impacts their immune system, has a blood clotting disorder or is on a blood thinner, talk with their primary care provider prior to giving them the vaccine. If your child has allergic reaction to the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to consult with their provider about whether a second dose is appropriate.
Can a child get the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time?
A child can certainly get their COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time. If a child has not yet been vaccinated for influenza at the time of their COVID-19 vaccine, I recommend they receive both.
When it comes to COVID-19 and vaccination, you’re right to ask questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s provider. We’re committed to being your partner in keeping your kids happy and healthy.