The moment so many moms and dads have been waiting for since March 2020 has finally arrived….the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has authorized a lower-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. This means that roughly 28 million kids are now eligible to receive the shot!

While some parents may be doing a celebratory dance at this long-anticipated news, others still feel confused by the huge amount of misinformation bombarding them over the airwaves and through social media.

It’s understandable that parents are asking good questions, but everyone should feel reassured that—after intensive evaluation—medical authorities, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, wholeheartedly encourage parents to have their kids—and themselves—vaccinated. 

In the end, I know that all parents want to make the right choice for their children, so, to help you make an informed decision, let’s tackle some of the top questions and concerns you might have about the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Do young kids even need to be vaccinated?

Yes they do! There are three big reasons why we think all kids—and adults—should get vaccinated:

  1. Vaccines keep kids healthy: Even though COVID-19 in kids is far less severe than infections in older adults, they can get very sick…and long haul symptoms—like losing their sense of smell and taste—can be pretty terrible for a child to suffer. Roughly 1.9 million children between 5 and 11 have been infected with COVID, 8,300+ have been hospitalized, and 172 have died. (COVID-19 is among the top 10 leading causes of death for children 5 to 11.) The Delta variant has put the most kids in the hospital since the start of the pandemic. Young kids can also get the rare (but sometimes deadly) COVID complication called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome In Children, where the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain can get very inflamed.  
  2. Vaccines keep families healthy: Most kids with COVID have few or no symptoms, but they can spread COVID to parents and grandparents. Many times the kids end up fine, but the parents end up losing their ability to smell or taste…or in the hospital!
  3. Vaccines keep the community healthy: Getting as many people vaccinated as possible would be a major move toward finally ending this pandemic. Kids may be more likely than adults to spread the illness because they are not as reliable in wearing masks, washing hands, etc. The spread of the infection to playmates, teachers, and other school personnel can ignite spread through an entire community. And, the more that COVID-19 circulates through unvaccinated folks, children included, the more dangerous mutations can occur...and that greatly impacts kids. It’s also clear that vaccinating all eligible children would reduce the number of school closures.

    How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine in children?

    Studies show that the vaccine is fantastic! It is over 90% effective against feeling sick from COVID-19 in the 5- to 11-year-old set. The few vaccinated children who developed COVID had a much milder course than the non-vaccinated children who were studied.

    Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?

    YES! The COVID-19 vaccine seems new, but the amazing mRNA tech behind it has been studied for decades. The 3,000+ children who got the vaccine during the clinical trials usually had minimal side effects, including pain at the shot site, mild fatigue, and headache. There were no serious reactions and no deaths. Since kids rarely have long-term side effects from COVID infection, the CDC notes that it’s “extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination.”

    What about the heart problems linked with COVID-19 vaccinations?

    A true infection with the actual COVID-19 virus can rarely cause myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). And, in men under 30 a mild case of myocarditis is sometimes seen after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine. However, no cases of myocarditis have been seen with the vaccine in children. The expert panel that reviewed the evidence concluded that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds outweigh the risks.

    How does the children’s vaccine differ from the adult version?

    Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for 5- to 11-year-olds and the dose is just a fraction of the adult dose (1/3, to be precise). Often, kids get the same exact dose of vaccine that adults get (like polio, tetanus, etc) but with COVID they do just fine with a much lower dose. Two shots are given 21 days apart.

    Where can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

    The White House reports that there will be plenty of child-sized doses made available, enough for every 5- to 11-year-old in the U.S. Existing COVID-19 vaccine providers, like pharmacies and community health centers, will be dolling out kid vaccines...but so will pediatricians, primary care providers, children’s hospitals, and perhaps even schools. (New vaccine providers need to be registered, trained, and certified.)

    When can children under 5 get vaccinated?

    We don’t know for sure. What we do know: Pfizer is currently running pediatric vaccine trials for children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years old and kids aged 2 to 4. The trial results for the bigger kids are projected to be available by the end of the year, with the results for younger children to come in soon after. (Moderna is also running clinical trials on this age group.)

    Can my child get the shot even if I don’t OK it? 

    In most cases, parental or caregiver consent is required for those under 12. However, Washington DC and Philadelphia currently allow 11-year-olds to self-consent for the COVID-19 vaccine.

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