We are now at one of the final phases of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Children between the ages of 12 and 17 can now be vaccinated against the coronavirus, but many parents who even they themselves have received the vaccine, still have questions and concerns about giving their teen or pre-teen the shot.
There are many resources of data available on this topic and in hopes of providing you some more information, we asked a TopLine MD Alliance affiliated pediatrician, Dr. Gilma Marimon, to provide some thoughts, but ultimately this is a personal decision, so we just want to share the facts with you and help you make the decision that makes you feel the most comfortable for you and your family.
If children were low risk for catching the coronavirus, do they need to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
A very valid question. One which I hear often from my patients. It’s true – children have fared well overall with this disease and the pandemic. However, thousands of children have been infected with coronavirus, and in the United States, 351 kids have died from coronavirus complications. Our goal, as pediatricians, is that no child should die from a disease which is now preventable by a vaccine. Another thing we have to take into consideration is the fact that kids and adolescents spread the disease and the goal is to get back to normal, to get the kids back in school with their friends. The only way to achieve that will be to get herd immunity, therefore everyone has to be vaccinated. So that’s the importance of vaccinating that group of the population.
There have been at least three COVID-19 vaccines approved for adults. Are these the same vaccines approved for children or which vaccine was approved for children?
The FDA has provided emergency authorization use for the Pfizer vaccine. It has now been approved for children 12 to 15. Back in December, the vaccine was approved for those ages 16 and older. There are still ongoing clinical trials with both Moderna and Pfizer, which include children as young as six months of age. The goal will be that by the fall, we should have a vaccine approved for children as young as two.
Is the dosage the same for adults as it is for children?
Yes. It is the exact same vaccine; same dosing and it’s separated by three weeks.
This Pfizer Biotech COVID-19 vaccine, as well as all other COVID-19 vaccines that were rolled out, had to go through several clinical trials to ultimately get approved under an emergency use authorization. Were there children in any of these trials to show the efficacy and safety for this age group?
Yes, and I think that’s why these results are so promising. I’m so enthusiastic about it because so far, the clinical trials included over 2,000 children ages 12 to 15. Those children show to have 100% efficacy with the vaccine in that specific age group. Out of those 2,000 kids, 1,000 were injected with the COVID vaccine and the other 1,000 with a placebo. Of the group who received the COVID vaccine, none were infected with the virus, so it’s really reassuring results.
For those children that did receive the vaccine, did they have any side effects or symptoms similar to adults when they got the vaccine?
So far, what we’ve seen is that children have similar side effects as adults. Soreness at the site, inflammation, swelling, some kids with the second dose have had fatigue, headaches, fevers, nothing more than that. Plus, we have not had any adverse events reported in children. That’s really reassuring as well. It’s just the immune system building up your immunity, but nothing more than that.
Should parents give their children Tylenol or Advil or any type of medication to help them with those symptoms?
That’s a very important question. We used to recommend for children to get Tylenol or Advil prior to vaccination, or immediately after to help with the potential side effects of the vaccine. However, over the last few years, there’s been a lot of research out there that shows that that might not be the best thing to do. When we vaccinate, the immune system boost itself to build immunity. By giving these medications, we might be sort of limiting the ability of the immune system to do so. That’s why we now recommend for parents to avoid the use of these medicines. We don’t pre-medicate, we avoid the use afterwards. However, if your child feels really bad, has a lot of muscle aches, pains or fever, it’s okay, but try not to use them. Less is always more.
Can a child get the COVID-19 vaccine along with any other immunizations that they have to get for the school year?
Yes. Initially the CDC, out of an abundance of caution, had recommended for the COVID-19 vaccine to be given alone, not with any other vaccine. However, now the CDC, as well as the AAP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, say that we can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, children as well, along with any other vaccine, regardless of timing. That’s important because children are going back to school, they’re due for their vaccinations, so that’s not a reason not to get the COVID vaccine.
Is there anything else that you would like parents to know about this? You know, a lot of parents are scared. It’s a new topic. They’re not sure what to do. What are you telling the parents of your patients?
I will tell the parents that personally, I would never recommend something for your child, which I do not do for my own two children. Both my daughters will be vaccinated – the first one has been vaccinated already. Talk to your pediatrician, trust your pediatrician and trust the science behind it. Ask the questions you need to ask. At the end of the day, our goal is to protect your child.
We have more details and frequently asked questions about the coronavirus and vaccines on our COVID-19 Resource page.
Dr. Gilma Marimon is a proud member of the TopLine MD Alliance practicing medicine in Miami-Dade County, Florida.