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COVID-19 Vaccines for Children: Your Questions Answered

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now approved for children age 5 and older. While this is another great step toward putting an end to the pandemic, many people have questions about the vaccine and how it will affect their children.

To share the latest information about the vaccine and answer common questions, pediatricians Kimberly Brown, MD, and Jill Colabroy, MD, with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital, recently hosted a virtual information session for parents and guardians.

Our pediatric experts share important information about the vaccines for children age 5 and older

We’ve included the recorded session, as well as a recap of what was discussed, below:

Rising rates of COVID-19 in children

Over the last few months, the number of COVID-19 infections in children has risen.

“The overall number of severely affected children has risen as well, simply because so many more infections have occurred,” Brown says. “There is a persistently high number of positive cases in our area, and we are seeing many of those cases in our pediatrics practices.”

Effects and risks

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected children in many ways. There have been greater rates of child mental illnesses, widening education gaps, negative effects from increased technology use and more.

However, some children who become infected with COVID-19 also face long-term medical complications, hospitalization and life-threatening illness.

One specific condition linked to COVID-19 infection in younger age groups is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can develop four to six weeks after COVID-19 infection and most frequently affects children age 5-11. While some cases are mild, others require advanced treatment and hospitalization.

Children who become ill with COVID-19 may also face myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and prolonged lung inflammation. There is also a risk for death.

 “Thankfully, child death from medical conditions is generally rare,” Colabroy says. “However, it’s important to know that COVID-19 has become one of the 10 leading causes of death for children age 5-11.”

Vaccine safety

The most common COVID-19 vaccine side effects in children of all ages include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain.

While there have been rare instances of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) reported in children age 12-17 (mostly male) after vaccination, this is very uncommon and most of the children who experience it recover quickly after rest or medical treatment.

“The complications of COVID-19 illness can be very severe and result in long-term consequences, including death,” Brown says. “The side effects of the vaccine in children are very mild most of the time. When myocarditis has occurred, it is often brief, mild and resolves on its own or with medical treatment. Also, there is a higher risk of developing myocarditis from COVID-19 infection than from the vaccine.”

Scheduling considerations

When it comes to scheduling the vaccine around other shots, children can receive their flu shots and other vaccines at the same time as their COVID-19 vaccine. It’s also safe for children with food allergies to receive the vaccine.

If your child is sick, it is best to hold off on getting them vaccinated until they feel better. This is because their immune system may not fully respond to the vaccine if it is already fighting an illness.

“As far as illness goes, it depends how sick your child is. We are entering sniffly nose season, so if they have some congestion, it’s fine for them to be vaccinated,” Colabroy says. “As long as they don’t have a fever or other more serious symptoms, they are fine to be vaccinated.”

The importance of vaccination

Getting your child vaccinated is the best way to protect them from COVID-19.  It will not only protect them from the disease – it will protect others as well.

Experts believe that more children being vaccinated will cause a significant decline in cases (in all age groups) throughout the country. It could also help prevent the development of new variants.

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