It was just over a week ago that the FDA approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15. Since then, over 600,000 kids have gotten their first doses, the CDC recently reported. The process quickly escalated last Thursday when major hospitals and pharmacies started offering the shot to children in this age group.
Health experts agree that vaccinating kids is key to reaching herd immunity and our eventual return to normalcy. Clinical trials are currently underway for children under the age of 12. Before long, every child in the U.S. will likely be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. That begs the question: Is your child ready to roll up their sleeves?
Why It’s Important for Kids to Get Vaccinated
During a press briefing on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced that the campaign to vaccinate kids got off to a smashing start. These 600,000 children bring the total number of kids in the U.S. under the age of 18 who have received at least one dose to 3.5 million.
The campaign is breathing new life into the country’s overall vaccination plan. Many areas have reported a lapse in demand for the shot, especially in rural areas, southern, and western states. That could imperil our ability to reach herd immunity. It’s unclear how many people will ultimately decide to get vaccinated, potentially leaving some areas with high levels of immunity and others with little to none.
Getting more children vaccinated will increase immunity levels across the general public, making it harder for the virus to spread…but only if parents decide to get their kids vaccinated.
There are several reasons to get your child vaccinated against COVID-19:
- Certain schools and facilities may require proof of vaccination for attendance. Contact your child’s school or daycare center to learn more.
- For many children, getting vaccinated means not having to worry as much about wearing a mask or getting sick when hanging out with their friends or seeing family members.
- Children are much less likely than adults to get seriously ill after contracting COVID-19, but the disease still poses a risk, and the long-term effects of testing positive remain unclear. So far, 3.9 million children have been infected, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of those, some have become extremely ill, and 308 children have died.
- Another 3,700 children went on to develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a disease that’s been linked to COVID-19. It usually develops several weeks after infection, leading to severe inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and gastrointestinal system.
What to Know Before Your Child Gets Vaccinated
- Getting Started
Start by researching local vaccination clinics in your area. Most facilities should now be equipped to give out the shot to children. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to learn more about the possible side effects, including fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. They tend to be fairly mild, but the shot can affect children in different ways.
- Fear of Needles
You should also talk to your kid beforehand. Some children might have to overcome their fear of needles to get their shot. If this is your kid’s first time getting vaccinated or pricked with a syringe, use these tips to soothe their fears:
Parenting experts recommend keeping your child as comfortable as possible. Pick out a comfortable outfit for them to wear. The nurse should have fast access to their arm, so avoid tight or overly complicated clothing that might get in the way.
Consider the position would make them feel more comfortable. Do they like to sit upright, slouch, or lay down? Some providers may recommend using a topical anesthetic cream to numb the pain of the needle going into the skin.
Keeping your child calm is also important. Anxiety can actually make their side effects worse, so find a way to distract them during the shot, such as a game, tablet, or video. Other children like to look at what’s happening, so consider talking to them or playing music during the process.
- Allergic Reactions
If your child has a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, they shouldn’t get the shot. Contact your provider to learn more.
Experts advise against giving children Tylenol and OTC pain medications before and after getting vaccinated. However, it’s safe to give them a small dosage if they develop a headache or muscle pain. Wait for the symptoms to emerge before relieving their pain.
Your child will get the same dose as you, 30 micrograms, administered about four weeks apart. It’s possible that children under 12 eventually may get a lower dosage.
- Other Vaccines
The CDC says it’s safe for children and adults to get other vaccines while getting vaccinated for COVID-19, such as those for hepatitis B, measles, and the flu.
- Children Under 12
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the president, recently told reporters that children at least as young as 4 “would likely be able to get vaccinated by the time we reach the end of calendar year 2021 and at the latest, into the first quarter of 2022.”
Both Moderna and Pfizer are conducting clinical trials for children as young as six months. Pfizer previously reported that it expects children under the age of 12 to be able to get the shot by September at the earliest, and approval for toddlers and infants would likely come several months after.
At the end of the day, many parents admit they will wait to get their kid vaccinated until more safety data is available, but experts say waiting only increases their chances of catching COVID-19.
As Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and professor at Brown University in Providence, RI, puts it, “The risk of your child catching COVID and getting really sick is low, but it’s not zero. And the risk of them getting sick or hospitalized or worse with COVID or with the post-COVID multi-inflammatory syndrome is higher than the risk of something bad from this vaccine.”
Get all your questions answered and consider signing your child up for their first dose of the vaccine today!