Should I have my child vaccinated for COVID-19?
CDC Now Recommending COVID-19 Vaccines for Children Under 5
In mid-June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced their recommendation of COVID-19 vaccines for young children previously unable to be vaccinated, ages 6 months through 5 years. Two vaccination protocols, one three-dose immunization series from Pfizer and one two-dose immunization series from Moderna, were granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and vaccine appointments should begin to open nationwide. Here is what parents and caregivers of young children may want to know:
What’s happening with COVID-19 in the U.S. right now?
According to the CDC, more than 5 million children under age 18 have tested positive for COVID-19 in 2022 so far. The number is likely much higher as home tests are frequently unreported to local health agencies. At the end of May 2022, the CDC reported that nearly all new infections of COVID-19 were caused by highly contagious omicron subvariants. While most children who contract COVID-19 recover without complications, there have still been over 8,000 children since the start of the pandemic who have grown very sick with something called multi-system inflammatory system, or MIS-C. Children are also at risk for post-COVID impacts like long COVID or even increased risk for new-onset diabetes.
Should my child be vaccinated?
While it is always recommended to consult with your child’s pediatrician when making immunization decisions, for many children, the resounding answer is yes. When the highly contagious Omicron variant emerged in 2021, hospitalizations of children reached a pandemic high, and according to the CDC, COVID-19 has been the fifth-leading cause of death for a child between ages 1 and 4 since March 2020. According to medical experts, one of the largest myths about the COVID-19 infection is that it is mild for children. Children can become very ill, and currently there is no way to predict why a previously healthy child may end up with MIS-C because of a COVID-19 infection. While vaccines cannot offer total protection against COVID-19, they’re extremely likely to lessen symptoms and keep your child out of the hospital.
When should my child be vaccinated?
Parents and caregivers should again check with their child’s pediatrician, but for most, your child should be vaccinated as soon as you’re able to find an appointment. Many parents may be tempted to wait until the fall months and beginning of school (this is when doctors see increases in flu cases and flu vaccinations, too), but medical experts are recommending eligible children be vaccinated sooner rather than later. While many parents like to think of summertime as a relatively virus-free time, doctors want children to be able to be fully vaccinated and immune well before the start of school. The shots are given over the course of a month, so that’s also something to factor in when planning.
What are the potential side effects?
Doctors and medical experts say the vaccine’s side effects are minimal and short-lasting in young children, especially compared to older children and teenagers. Common side effects for young children getting a COVID-19 vaccine can include: pain at the injection site, fatigue, irritability and fever. These are the same side effects parents can expect with other childhood immunizations. There have been some reports of slightly more side effects with Moderna’s vaccine when compared to Pfizer’s, but Moderna’s is also reported to offer immunity more immediately when compared to Pfizer. Neither vaccine demonstrated any side effect of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart wall, in preliminary data.
Is Pfizer or Moderna better for my child?
Most medical experts agree that whichever shot is available soonest is best for your child, but there are some differences between the two that parents and caregivers may want to know. Moderna’s shot is one quarter of the adult dose. Moderna’s two-dose regimen is given one month apart for children ages 6 months to 5 years. Pfizer’s shot is one tenth of the adult dose. Pfizer’s three-dose regimen is given over 11 weeks for children ages 6 months to 4 years. Both vaccines demonstrated roughly equal antibody responses in child and adult studies. Early data does show Pfizer’s shot sequence may be more effective at preventing illness from Omicron, but data also shows that the immunity Moderna’s shot sequence provides is more immediate. Either vaccine will greatly reduce the severity of symptoms and chance of hospitalization in young children.
For more information on the latest COVID-19 information, including how to vaccinate your child, visit www.cdc.gov. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and under, visit www.healthychildren.org, or www.verywellfamily.com.
By ABC Quality Team on July 12, 2022