Summer is a time for relaxing, participating in fun activities, enjoying the outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. This year, an important item to add to your summer to-do list is taking your kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In May, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12 and older. The vaccine is safe, effective and a great way to protect your family against COVID-19. It is important to plan ahead, so your kids are fully vaccinated before school starts this fall. The vaccine is two doses, about three weeks apart. Then, it is two weeks after the second dose when a person is considered fully vaccinated.
As a pediatrician, I talk with parents almost daily about the vaccine. It is natural to feel apprehensive about something new for your child. I want to provide information to help you make an informed decision about getting the COVID vaccine, and hopefully put your mind as ease with your choice.
What parents should know about the COVID vaccine for kids 12 – 15 years old:
Should I get my child vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes, absolutely. Getting your child(ren) a COVID-19 vaccine is the number one thing you can do to reduce his or her risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. The vaccine is safe and effective. I have had my own child vaccinated. In fact, all of the pediatricians at Olathe Health Pediatrics have had their kids vaccinated who are 12 years and older. I would never recommend a treatment to parents that I would not do for my own child. The vaccine not only helps protect your child, it also helps keep them from catching some of the new variants that might put other family members at risk.
How would you respond to the following concerns from parents about getting the COVID vaccine?
“The vaccine is not necessary for kids because they don’t get COVID”
Children can get COVID-19. Their symptoms may be more mild, or they may be asymptomatic, however, there are kids who end up with severe cases and in the hospital. This number has increased recently with the new variants of the virus. And, about one-third of those in the hospital with COVID-19 are in the ICU. In addition, children can spread the virus to others and put them at risk.
“The long-term effects aren’t known yet”
Although the COVID-19 disease and vaccine are new researchers have been working with mRNA vaccine technology for decades. The vaccine is not a live virus, and it cannot give you COVID-19. You may have side effects after vaccination. These are normal, and should go away in a few days. Vaccine monitoring, for all vaccines, not just COVID, have shown that side effects usually happen within six weeks of receiving a dose. There is no reason to think that long-term side effects would be different than any other vaccine.
One side effect of the Pfizer vaccine currently in the news is Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. This seems to be happening in males ages 16-30 about a week after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, and racing heartbeat. This has occurred in a very small number of people, most people have responded well to treatment and have been able to return to normal activity. You can also get myocarditis from COVID-19, and the severity is usually much worse. It is still recommended to get the vaccine.
“It could affect kids’ fertility”
This myth is false. There is currently no evidence to support the claim that the vaccine can cause infertility, according to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I also have personally known people who have gotten pregnant after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It could put my child at risk of a serious allergic reaction”
Children with severe food and environmental allergies can still get the COVID-19 vaccine. Your child should not get the vaccine if he or she has ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the specific COVID-19 vaccine he or she is receiving. For those who have a history of allergic reactions, they will be monitored a little longer after getting the vaccine, for 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes. So, it’s important when filling out information or answering questions to let the vaccine provider know your child has a history of anaphylaxis.
The possible side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine for children are very similar to adults. This is a normal sign that your body is building protection. The side effects may include mild symptoms like soreness at injection site, muscle aches, headache, fever and fatigue. They usually last about one-to-two days. These side effects are less worrisome than the symptoms you can get from actually getting the virus.
Does going back to school increase my child’s risk of catching or transmitting the coronavirus?
Yes, going back to school can increase the risk of getting COVID-19. We know being indoors, in close proximity to other people, puts you at higher risk. Also, local school districts are considering dropping the mask mandate this fall. So, once school starts, there is a higher risk.
I would highly recommend getting your kids 12 and older vaccinated before the school year begins. The vaccine can protect them from getting the virus. Plan ahead, and bring your kids in for the vaccine soon! It takes about 5 weeks to be fully vaccinated. You have to get two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart. Then, it is two weeks after the second dose when a person is considered fully vaccinated.
Will getting the COVID-19 vaccine help my child go back to school, sports and other activities?
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will add an extra layer of protection for your kids when going back to school, playing sports and doing other clubs and activities this fall. It can help you get back to normal.
It helps keep your child from getting sick. In addition, if your child is exposed to COVID-19 and is vaccinated, he or she will not have to quarantine and miss school or activities.
What if my child has already gotten Covid-19, do they still need the vaccine?
Yes, the CDC recommends that you still get the COVID vaccine, even if you have had COVID disease because research shows that you get stronger and longer-lasting protection from the vaccine than from infection.
A couple things to keep in mind if you have had COVID: If you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, or had MIS-A or MIS-C, then you should wait 90 days before getting the vaccine. If you were unsure what treatment you received, then I recommend you talk with your doctor.
If you have kids who are under 12 years old, the best thing you can do as a parent to protect them is to get vaccinated yourself. Many people are feeling like things are going back to normal. However, the pandemic is not over. There are still hospitalizations, people getting sick and dying. Most of these are people who are not vaccinated. The vaccine is very effective in combating COVID-19. I encourage you to learn more about the vaccine; talk with your healthcare provider about it; talk with your child about it, and make a decision that is right for your family.
COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available for children 12 and older at Olathe Health Pediatrics. Please call 913-782-2525. You can also call any Olathe Health family medicine location for a child or adult vaccine appointment.