Some parents are quite eager to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, while others are somewhat hesitant. But the more folks who get the vaccine, the better chance we’ll have at conquering the virus and stopping future variants. Mobeen Rathore, MD, chief of pediatric infectious disease and immunology at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, offers five things to know when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines for younger kids.
1. Experts say the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children ages 5 to 11.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children ages 5 to 11, and both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that children as young as 5 get the vaccine.
Parents can rest assured that in ongoing clinical trials, no serious side effects have been detected. Research shows that the vaccine is safe, well-studied, and has not been rushed.
2. Children are not getting the same size dose as adults.
Kids ages 5 through 11 will receive one-third of the adult dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Administered using smaller needles, this particular vaccine has been designed specifically for children. Research shows that the vaccine is highly effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in children 5–11, similar to what has been seen in both older children and adults.
3. Kids can and DO get infected with COVID-19.
While it’s true that most kids who contract the virus don’t get quite as sick as adults, some may still get very ill and end up hospitalized, admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), or even die of COVID-19. Plus, even if kids are asymptomatic or have a mild illness, they can still develop Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), which is a serious condition that is the direct result of COVID-19 infection, roughly four weeks after the initial infection. Children may also be susceptible to long COVID-19.
4. Natural immunity alone won’t cut it.
Even if someone has antibodies from a former infection, he or she still needs the COVID-19 vaccine in order to have adequate protection. According to Dr. Rathore, we know this from experience with vaccinations that protect against other infections such as whooping cough.
5. The benefits of getting your child vaccinated outweigh the risks.
If you’re hesitant to get your kids vaccinated because of the potential for long-term effects, know that most adverse effects of any vaccine will occur in the first six to eight weeks after inoculation. Any minor side effects that have been reported from the vaccine were actually less harmful than what has been caused by COVID-19 infection. Dr. Rathore emphasized that the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh any harm when compared to natural infection.
“There are no 100% guarantees with anything in life,” said Dr. Rathore. “We take a risk when we drive our cars every day, but we can make the drive safer with seat belts and airbags. Similarly, we can make our children safer with vaccines and masks.”
At Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, we want to help keep parents and our community informed. For answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine for children, including vaccination locations, visit wolfsonchildrens.com/covid19. For additional information about COVID-19 vaccines for adults and children, visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine.