Although my entire family, including my children, was infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 in April 2020, my children’s immune protection may now not be strong enough to fend off reinfection, or as durable or reliable as vaccine-induced immunity. .
My oldest son, Ammar, is 8 years old and in third grade. He is a bit more risk tolerant than my youngest son, Hasan, who is 5 years old and in kindergarten. Hasan, given the chance, can talk with an ear about Covid-19 and the intricacies of the immune system. His explanation of how the body fights the virus and makes antibodies is one of the cutest conversations I’ve ever had with him. They are both wonderful kids who are fascinated by the Marvel superhero universe. Guests who come to our house usually get a whole costume parade of the guys dressing up and pretending to fight the bad guys.
So much has been and is being said about vaccinating children against Covid-19. I talk about it with family, friends, community members, colleagues and patients, and I’ve written about it. But this is about kids — so talking to my kids about getting vaccinated and allowing them to share their thoughts is also an important part of the process. In preparation for Ammar and Hasan’s Covid-19 vaccine appointment, I sat down with them to discuss the vaccine and how they feel about being vaccinated.
The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Mom: So guys, who wants to be a superhero?
ammar: Me! I want to be Iron Man and Captain America!
Hasan: And I want to be Black Panther and Spider-Man!
Mom: Did you know that you are acting like a superhero by getting vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus? Not only will the vaccine help protect you from the virus and keep you protected, but it will also keep you from spreading the virus to other people and making them sick. Like superheroes, you help other people by protecting them too.
Hassan: Wow! At my school, my teacher is vaccinated and she also helps prevent the spread of the virus. And so my friends are also safe because she has been vaccinated.
Mom: That’s right, Hasan. Want to be like your teacher and help protect yourself and your friends?
Hasan: Yes, because during the break there are many children playing together and I want to be better protected.
Mom: Do guys know if any of your friends at school have already been vaccinated against Covid-19 and are kids talking about the vaccine?
ammar: One of my friends said he would get the vaccine. I’m going to say congratulations when I see him again.
Hasan: No, I don’t know a friend at school who said they got the vaccine, but maybe they don’t know it’s available, so I’ll tell them it’s available now and I’ll get the vaccine.
Mom: Mom and Dad have been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, what do you think?
ammar: I am happy because you are protected from the virus. I don’t want you to get sick. I don’t want you to die.
Mom: Do you also want to be protected?
ammar: Yes. I want to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Can we go tomorrow?
Mom: No, we have our appointment next week. Since you have a runny nose and cough, we have to wait until you feel better.
Ammar, you just got tested for Covid-19 because you weren’t feeling well, and we wanted to make sure you didn’t have the virus before going back to school. How did you feel when you were tested at the doctor?
ammar: I didn’t like it all. I didn’t like the swab the doctor put in my nose. I don’t want to do it again.
Mom: Well, you know that another benefit of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is that you are less likely to get the virus, so you don’t have to get tested as often.
So guys, what are you most excited about when you get the Covid-19 vaccine?
Hasan: be a superhero!
Mom: What do you want to do after you have been vaccinated, since then we can do more activities safely, such as going to the movies, traveling by plane to other places, seeing more friends and family and having play dates?
ammar: I want to travel to Texas because I was born there.
Hasan: I don’t want to wear my mask anymore after I’ve been vaccinated.
Mom: If you’re vaccinated, you’re better protected against the virus, so you don’t have to wear a mask in many places, like when we’re around other people who’ve also been vaccinated — but we’ll keep our masks on a little longer if we being at school or in a building where there are many people.
Ammar, I know you’re afraid of needles. What do you want to tell other kids to prepare them for their Covid-19 vaccine like Mom taught you when you go for your flu shot every year?
ammar: the needle is pointed, but it’s only two seconds — it’s like a sniff for two seconds and then you get the protection, so you’ll be fine. Just think about something you want to play with when you get home so you don’t think about the shot.
Hasan: Don’t worry, it’s just one shot. Shots aren’t scary, they protect people. And the doctor says well done and then gives you a sticker or a candy.
• Continue to demonstrate Covid-safe behavior prior to your children’s appointments, such as wearing a mask and keeping a distance at the vaccination appointment.
• Keep children hydrated and give them a snack before their vaccination appointments. This can help if they become nervous, dizzy or light-headed.
• Dress the children in loose, comfortable clothing. This allows them to expose the arm easily.
• Give a pep talk about what to expect, just like any other vaccination appointment.
• Wait the recommended 15-30 minutes after the injection in the clinic to check for possible allergic reactions or serious side effects.
• Be prepared for common side effects after their vaccination, including arm pain, feeling tired or sore, having a headache or getting a fever. Side effects usually disappear after one to two days.
• Continue to practice Covid safe behavior. The body needs time to build up protection after a vaccination. Children are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second Covid-19 dose.