The COVID-19 vaccine and children. Your questions answered – Community News
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The COVID-19 vaccine and children. Your questions answered

Children ages 5-11 are the last group in the United States to qualify for coronavirus vaccines, alongside nearly a quarter of a billion people ages 12 and older who have received at least one dose to date. In the first week of availability, an estimated 900,000 children in the new age bracket will already have received shots, the White House announced on Wednesday. But not everyone is rushing to make an appointment — many parents are waiting to see how early adopters are doing.

Medical experts say widespread vaccination is crucial to quell the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical trial data suggest that Pfizer’s vaccine, approved for emergency use in children ages 5-11, is more than 90 percent effective in preventing severe cases of coronavirus infection, hospitalization and death. And if we look beyond this pandemic, the people who remain unvaccinated make up the vast majority of those who have suffered the most – demonstrating the protective and preventative power of vaccination.

Still, older children, who have been eligible since the spring, are slower to get their injections compared to adults, and some families with younger children may be equally hesitant. According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in late September, a minority of parents with children ages 5-11 — about three in 10 — said they would have their children vaccinated against the virus as soon as possible. Rigorous clinical trials and hundreds of millions of injections suggest that these vaccines are safe and effective. But parents’ main concern in this study was that they could cause unknown potential long-term side effects. Other concerns included not knowing whether a parent would have to pay for the vaccines (the vaccines are free) and other access issues, such as not having reliable transportation.

The bottom line, according to medical experts, is that when in doubt, consult a trusted health care provider, such as your child’s pediatrician. We took your questions to multiple public health and pediatrics experts, who shared what we know about vaccines and protecting young children from this deadly virus.

We collect their answers below. Do you have a question you want answered? Leave it here.

How does the vaccine work?

For both children and adults, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses given three weeks apart, and a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose in the series.

After that time, most people will have developed enough antibodies to COVID-19 to protect themselves from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

How does the vaccine for children differ from the vaccine given to adults?

For children aged 5 to 11 years, the doses are one third of those given to adults. These doses can also be stored in a conventional refrigerator for up to 10 weeks, unlike adult doses, which must be used or discarded after a month of normal refrigeration. That innovation makes distribution easier than during earlier phases of vaccine rollouts in the US.

Are there any side effects?

Side effects of vaccinating young children against COVID-19 are mild and are similar to what parents and pediatricians see after vaccinating children against flu, such as initial pain and swelling at the injection site, fever, chills, headache and fatigue.

If you notice any side effects, please report them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s v-safe database. This smartphone app allows people who have been vaccinated to report how they feel after receiving their dose, helping researchers collect and analyze vaccine safety information in near real time.

Is the vaccine safe?

Vaccinating a child against COVID-19 is safe, and the benefits far outweigh the risks of waiting and potentially getting sick with the coronavirus, the CDC has stated after extensive clinical trials. Health experts also say it’s safe to get vaccinated against COVID and the flu at the same time. And it’s not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine itself.

Following the approval of Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, researchers continue to review the data for safety and effectiveness. dr. Paul Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologics, shared this guidance before casting his vote on Oct. 26 in support of authorizing the use of COVID vaccines in young children: never know everything. The question is whether you know enough.”

Can my child develop a heart infection or myocarditis after being vaccinated?

In rare cases, young people who have been vaccinated have developed inflammation of the heart muscle or mucous membrane that can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath and heart pounding, especially after the second dose. An FDA analysis of Optum health insurance claims found that 180 cases per million fully vaccinated boys ages 12-15 developed myocarditis.

But these cases were relatively mild compared to what happens after COVID-19 infection, which carries a 15-fold increase in myocarditis risk. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say most cases “responded well to medications and rest and felt better quickly.” These side effects should be reported to the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or the CDC’s VAERS database, according to experts who advised the CDC on the matter.

Will vaccination against COVID affect my child’s fertility?

There is no evidence that any vaccine causes fertility problems, the CDC notes, and neither do COVID vaccines. However, using fertility as a topic of conversation is a common strategy of anti-vaccination advocates.

READ MORE: There’s No Evidence That COVID-19 Vaccines Harm Fertility. This is what feeds the myth

My child already had COVID. Should they be vaccinated?

It’s unclear how much durable and long-term protection a COVID-19 infection provides children, so public health experts recommend that children be vaccinated, even if they’ve been sick or tested positive for the virus. Evidence presented at the CDC’s Nov. 2 meeting of experts suggested that vaccination after recovery from COVID-19 infection provides good protection against the virus.

A child’s immune system can handle COVID better than an adult’s. Why bother?

During the pandemic, statistically, children appear to be less likely to get sick from COVID-19 than adults. Federal data suggests that four in ten children are infected with COVID-19. Of the 5-11 year olds, more than 8,000 were hospitalized, a third of whom had no known medical conditions that would predispose them to serious COVID-19 outcomes. Dozens of these school-age children have died — the CDC lists COVID-19 as one of the top 10 causes of death for this age group. “Children are not supposed to die,” says Dr. Smriti Khare, president of Children’s Wisconsin-Primary Care. The risk to children may be smaller, but not zero.

My child was recently diagnosed with Covid. Should they be vaccinated?

Children who have recently been ill should be vaccinated, but there are some notable caveats.

If your child is still ill with COVID-19, you should follow isolation guidelines to protect others from being infected, said Dr Claire Boogaard, who serves as medical director for the COVID-19 vaccination program at Children’s National Hospital.

And if your child’s infection was treated with monoclonal antibodies, Boogaard says you should wait 90 days from the end of that regimen before getting your child vaccinated. “Your body doesn’t get a strong immune response because it has all that stuff floating around,” she said.