Kids and the COVID-19 vaccine — Updated guidance and info
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 and older. This news is an exciting development in the continued fight against the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.
But what does this mean for kids and standard vaccine schedules? Are side effects similar for kids as they are for adults? Will schools require the vaccine to return to the classroom in the fall?
Mary Fairchok, MD, medical director of pediatric infectious diseases at Mary Bridge Children’s, spoke previously about kids and the COVID-19 vaccine, and shares her thoughts on the latest updates for this younger patient population.
Who qualifies for the vaccine?
All children ages 12 and older, without known reactions or allergy to vaccine components, can receive the Pfizer vaccine.
When will younger kids be eligible?
Clinical trials are still being conducted for younger children. When those are complete, we anticipate the COVID-19 vaccine will become more widely available with additional EUAs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) anticipates that by the fall, vaccine will become available for younger children.
I’m worried about short- and long-term side effects. What do I need to know?
“It’s understandable that parents have hesitations about the possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Fairchok said. “It’s helpful to understand that prior to any children receiving this vaccine, millions of adults have now received it and no new concerns have emerged about serious side effects. It remains a very safe and effective vaccine. Long-term side effects are extremely rare with vaccines and are not expected to occur with this vaccine.”
“On the other hand, long-term side effects to one’s health are well known to occur with COVID-19 infection, including in children,” she said.
Dr. Fairchok reminds parents that no steps were skipped in developing or evaluating this vaccine despite its rapid development. Prior to the EUA authorizing the release down to age 12, a randomized placebo-controlled trial was conducted in adolescents ages 12-15 years old, and side effects were very similar to those seen in adults.
The most reported side effects include injection site pain, fever, chills and headaches that last a few days. It should be noted that these side effects are frequent in adolescents receiving the vaccine. It’s OK to administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen if symptoms occur. Parents should monitor side effects and be in touch with their child’s pediatrician if the side effects linger.
Should I prioritize my child’s standard shots or the COVID-19 vaccine?
It’s important for children to be up-to-date on their regular shots, especially as schools are reopened for in-person learning and extracurricular activities begin again; however, it is recommended that parents prioritize getting their children immunized against COVID-19 so we can stop this pandemic, unless they are already behind on other vaccines.
“Previously, it was recommended out of an abundance of caution not to give any other vaccine within two weeks of the COVID-19 vaccine; however, on May 14, the CDC updated this guidance based on accumulated information and it is now considered safe to administer the COVID-19 vaccine without regard to timing of other shots,” Dr. Fairchok said.
The Pfizer vaccine is a two-dose shot and requires three weeks between doses. Parents need to plan ahead to adequately space out the doses.
What does the CDC’s mask guidance mean for families with fully vaccinated parents but partially or non-vaccinated children?
“Children who are not fully vaccinated should still wear masks if they’re old enough to wear them in the same settings as unvaccinated adults,” Dr. Fairchok said. “Many are concerned that unvaccinated adults will stop wearing masks, exposing other unvaccinated people, including children. This sadly is not unlikely, so parents should continue to exercise prudence with their unvaccinated children in public places, especially in crowded and indoor areas.”
How can I get my child’s COVID-19 vaccine scheduled?
If you’d like to schedule your child’s vaccine with MultiCare, please visit the COVID-19 information page for current guidance and availability.
About The Author
Kalyn is the PR specialist for Mary Bridge Children’s. She writes about all things related to pediatric health and wellness, and enjoys telling patient and provider stories.More stories by this author