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Why childhood vaccination matters: A parent’s guide to kids and the COVID-19 vaccine

If you’re a parent like me, you likely have the COVID-19 vaccine on your mind these days. With the Pfizer vaccine now authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for children ages 12-15, many parents have questions as they anxiously anticipate getting their kids vaccinated.

I can’t wait for my daughter to turn 12 years old in July, as I’m hoping to be able to vaccinate her on her birthday. I also can’t wait for the vaccine companies to complete studies in younger children, so we can soon vaccinate my 8-year-old son.

The only way for us to beat the pandemic and get back to the lives we love is by banding together, believing in science and having strong faith. From one parent to another, here’s what I’d like you to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and kids.

Is it safe for my child to get the COVID-19 vaccine? How do we know?

First of all, it’s perfectly normal to worry about your child’s safety. After all, this vaccine is new. But keep in mind, children have been getting vaccines against other illnesses for many years now. And while these particular vaccines are new, the technology behind them has been studied for decades.

There are also studies underway to affirm the safety of the vaccine specifically in kids, and we continue to grow in confidence with each new finding. Pfizer recently completed a study of 2,260 children 12 to 15 years of age where half of the children received two doses of the vaccine and the other half received the placebo. The data showed that there were no cases of COVID-19 among the children who received the vaccine, while those who received placebo had 18 cases. 

Pfizer has also started studying the efficacy and safety of the vaccine in children as young as 2 years old. So far from this study, there have been no reports of serious side effects or other issues. Moderna also has an ongoing study in children ages 12-17, and has expanded its research to include children as young as 6 months of age.

You can rest assured knowing these vaccines have undergone — and continue to undergo — rigorous testing, as all vaccines do before being made available to the public. If you have any concerns about whether you should get your child vaccinated, talk to your pediatrician.

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Why is it important for kids to get the vaccine?

All age groups contribute to transmission of the virus. Although data shows that children are at lower risk of developing severe illness from the virus, it should be noted that in rare cases, children who are infected can develop a dangerous condition called multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). Vaccinating children will help prevent the infection that leads to MIS-C and will also help achieve herd immunity by decreasing the rate of transmission across our communities.

Related: What to expect when you get the COVID-19 vaccine

How do I explain the COVID-19 vaccine to my child?

Some children may not completely understand the circumstances, how vaccines work or why they need the vaccine. It is important for parents to explain to their children that sometimes when you’re sick, you may have no symptoms at all. Receiving the vaccine will help decrease transmission of the virus and it will also prevent the chance of developing severe disease and admission to the hospital.

Getting the vaccine will certainly help decrease transmission not only at schools, but also at any event where kids interact with one another — like summer camps and sports. You can communicate to your children that getting the vaccine is an important step to make sure they (and all their friends, teachers and coaches) stay safe and can get back to doing all those fun activities they enjoy together.

Should we be worried about potential long-term effects?

There are potential complications with any vaccine or drug when it is administered to any child or adult. However, the risk of serious side effects is rare — and pales in comparison to the risk of COVID-19 infection. Recent data on “COVID long haulers” show that some people who were infected with severe COVID-19 disease continue to have respiratory, heart and neurological issues, as well as prolonged fatigue, for months after being sick. These serious side effects can be prevented by getting the vaccine.

Bottom line? The significant benefits of the vaccine clearly outweigh the small risks. Schedule your child or teen’s vaccine appointment today by calling 1.844.BSW.VACC or by visiting one of our vaccine locations accepting walk-ins.

As we begin vaccinating our children, first, make sure you’re vaccinated. Keep your family safe by also continuing to mask up, physically distance and wash your hands frequently.

Subscribe to the Scrubbing In newsletter for more ways to keep your family well.

About the author

Gueorgui Dubrocq, MD
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Gueorgui Dubrocq, MD, is a pediatric infectious disease specialist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Specialty Clinic – Temple. Get to know Dr. Dubrocq.

Kirstin Sepulveda, BSN, RN
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Kirstin Sepulveda, BSN, RN, is an infectious disease nurse at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Specialty Clinic – Temple.

Why childhood vaccination matters: A parent’s guide to kids and the COVID-19 vaccine