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What You Need to Know About the COVID Vaccine and Kids Ages Five and Up

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children ages 5-11, so we spoke with pediatrician Dr. Meg Frizzola to answer questions from parents.

Editor’s note: Each state will receive specified doses of COVID-19 vaccines for ages 5-11. Programs are planned at many locations and 15 million doses have already begun distribution rollout. Some sites are pediatrician offices, mass vaccination sites and pharmacies. The entire program should be underway by 11/8. Philadelphia residents may register to receive a vaccine here or find our mobile vaccine unit schedule here. New Jersey residents may schedule their vaccines here

The COVID-19 vaccine is officially available to children ages five to 11. Many parents view this as a light at the end of the tunnel. At the same time, others are feeling nervous and skeptical. We spoke with Dr. Meg Frizzola, Division Chief of Critical Care Medicine of the Department of Pediatrics at Nemours Children’s Hospital, to answer parents’ questions about vaccinating children.

Do kids (5 to 11) need a COVID-19 vaccine? 

Absolutely. The AAP, ACIP, CDC and AMA all recommend this wholeheartedly. The phase II/III studies show greater than 90% efficacy against active covid infection. 

Why is this vaccination important for kids?  

Although children, for the most part, are not as heavily impacted with severe morbidity and mortality related to COVID-19 infection as adults, they are not inherently immune to the disease. Children and adolescents are affected and do get infected. To date, 1.9 million children have been infected with COVID; 8,300 have resulted in hospitalization, with 280 deaths. Not only will it impact their physical health, but it will also have a great impact on their mental and emotional well-being.  

Further, achieving a higher national vaccination rate will help get our kids back to school in a less restrictive fashion, allow for many more activities and start to remove even more of the social isolation.

Can the vaccine impact the child’s development in any way? 

No, there is no evidence supporting any of these concerns. The vaccine will not impact fertility, female reproductive systems, menstrual cycles or brain development. The mRNA vaccines do not enter the cell’s nucleus and do not impact DNA in any capacity.

What are the vaccine side effects for kids? Will it hit them as hard as it has for some adults?  

Side effects are similar to adolescents and adults. They may experience pain, swelling, redness at the injection site, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle aches, stiffness and swollen lymph nodes. Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) is a very rare side effect. It is why there is a 15 minute observation period after receiving the vaccine. There haven’t been any reported cases of anaphylaxis amongst any age group. 

There has been concern about children getting myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) after the vaccine. The likelihood and incidence of children getting myocarditis is much higher after a COVID-19 infection. Myocarditis has been seen during or after COVID infection and is most common in male adolescents. The trials surrounding the vaccine have shown no instances of myocarditis.  

What can you give your child if they don’t feel well after the vaccine?  

If a child experiences pain or fever, the CDC recommends giving an age-appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Should kids still wear masks after vaccination? 

A mask is still necessary because the number of cases is still too high to allow for masks to be removed at this time.  

The desire to discontinue masking is well understood. To start moving this needle in the right direction, increasing the number of vaccinations we administer will help. In addition to masking, handwashing and staying home when you are sick are also important!

Any timeline for children under 5 to receive vaccines? 

Studies and trials are still underway, and there is no timeline as of yet. However, Pfizer representatives say data on this age group will be available before the end of the year.

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COVID-19, From the Experts