If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’m a big fan of vaccines. I always have been, but I was never so excited to be vaccinated myself as I was to be able to get the COVID19 vaccine. When my college aged children and husband were able to be vaccinated, I was happy to know that they each jumped at the chance and got vaccinated at the earliest possible time. We even have pictures of each of us during or immediately after our vaccines displayed on our fireplace mantle. I’m THAT HAPPY that we were vaccinated.
If I had younger kids I would vaccinate them as soon as possible as well.
Do kids really need the vaccine?
I’m anxiously anticipating the announcement that the vaccines will be available to younger children soon. Why? Because until we get spread of this virus under control we’re at risk of it continuing to cause death and disability. Every time the virus spreads it is possible that it can mutate to a more deadly variant. We need world wide vaccination of the population to get this control. One step is to vaccinate children. We cannot reach herd immunity without vaccinating children.
It’s not always mild in kids
Most of us know kids who have been infected with COVID and had very mild symptoms, which can lead us to false security that this virus is “no big deal” in kids. The reality is that about 1 in 1000 develop Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome of Children (MIS-C) weeks after seeming to recover from infection and over 300 kids have died from COVID19 infections. If one of those children is yours, the overall low numbers don’t matter.
Most, but not all, kids who require hospitalization or die had underlying conditions. From state reported data that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has collected, children are 1.2-3.1% of all COVID related hospitalizations.
Lingering and late effects of COVID19 infections
Many healthy children have lingering symptoms for months. These symptoms can impact their ability to thrive academically, interact socially, and continue in their favorite activities. They can lead to mental health struggles in addition to physical problems.
We do not know late effects from a previous infection. There are many viruses that can cause problems years later, like shingles from chicken pox or cancer from Hepatitis B or Human papillomavirus. We know this from generations of experience. We do not have this benefit of experience with COVID19. The more infections we can prevent, the better.
Kids are getting infected
As more adults get vaccinated, the percentage of total cases of COVID19 infection in children is rising. The sooner kids can be vaccinated, the sooner they can be protected!
Consequences of the pandemic
We know that the past year of virtual learning, isolation, and masking has led to academic problems, social consequences, and anxiety.
The sooner our kids can feel safe and secure in school the better – and knowing that they and others around them are vaccinated will help.
It has been announced that the FDA will likely authorize the Pfizer vaccine in the US next week. (It’s already approved for this age group in Canada.)
Are they safe?
The Pfizer vaccine has gone through rigorous trials in this age group. The vaccine trial data was submitted to the FDA April 9th and they’ve been carefully reviewing it. No corners were cut – the scientific process has been thorough. And just like the adult study participants, this study group will be followed for 2 years to monitor for long term protection and safety.
Don’t worry about this reference to long term safety risks. We know from many years of studying vaccines, they do not cause complications after a couple of months.
Most side effects of any vaccine occur within the first 1-2 days. These include fever, body aches, fatigue, and redness of the injection site. They are easily managed at home.
Serious side effects are very, very rare. These include significant allergic reactions, which tend to happen within 15 minutes. This is why everyone is monitored for reactions after injection. These reactions can be managed by the healthcare professionals at the vaccination site.
It is even less common for side effects to show up after a couple of months, and COVID19 vaccines have not shown late complications after many months of use. Hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated since it was available to certain groups in late December.
See my earlier post on side effects for more.
You don’t need to wait years to be sure it’s safe for your family – and waiting keeps you at risk of getting infected. We know the risks of COVID infections, and while they may seem low because you know kids who have only mild symptoms, if your child is one that has serious problems from infection, your child is 100% affected by those problems.
The Pfizer study included 2260 12-15 year olds.
It showed a 100% efficacy – none of the 1131 in the vaccinated group got infected with COVID during the study but 18 of the 1129 placebo group did get infected. When the vaccine is available to the larger masses, a few vaccinated kids may get infected (just like in adults) but the large majority will be protected.
Study participants had blood tests to monitor antibody response. This age group (12-15 years) had a better response than even slightly older ages. This is fantastic news! Their immune systems work very well!
What happens now?
After the FDA announces their recommendation the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet to discuss their recommendations.
Once the FDA authorizes the vaccine, it is expected that pediatricians and family physicians will be able to give the vaccine in their offices. The vaccines will continue to be free!
One change in the vaccine administration: kids will be able to get each dose at separate locations. This should help if the family is planning to move over the summer or there are other logistical complications of returning to the same site.
What about younger kids?
Studies of infants and children 6 months to 11 years of age started in March. They started with the older ages and are working back towards the infants as studies progress. The studies are carefully designed and are very thorough, just like studies in older kids, teens, and adults.
Pfizer is anticipated to request for authorization for 2-11 year olds in September and for 6 – 24 months early 2022.
As mentioned above, 12 -15 year olds made much higher levels of antibodies than 16 – 25 year olds in earlier trials. Current studies are using various doses to see if younger children can receive a good immune response to lower doses.
What about other vaccines?
Moderna started clinical trials in 12-17 year olds in December. Results show 96% effectiveness after the first dose – it will be exciting to see what happens after the second dose! The vaccine has been overall well tolerated with typical side effects. They have 3235 participants in this group of the study.
They have increased studies of their vaccine in ages 6 months to 12 years of age. It is also being done in phases, starting with 6-12 years of age, followed by 2-6 years, and finally 6 months to 2 years. They are testing various doses, starting with low doses and increasing as needed to find safe and effective doses. They plan to enroll 6750 participants.
Studies are planned to investigate how COVID19 vaccines will fit into the standard vaccine schedule. At this time it is recommended to have no other vaccines 2 weeks before a COVID19 vaccine, between doses, and for 2 weeks after the final dose.
- Check out https://www.immunize.org/covid-19/ for many resources!
- AAP’s COVID19 Vaccine FAQs
- Risa Hoshino, MD is a board certified pediatrician in public health. She promotes accurate information on her Instagram account and maintains a list of resources. Check it out: COVID19 Vaccine Resource List
- Allergic reaction information
- How Do We Know the COVID-19 Vaccine Won’t Have Long-Term Side Effects?
Tracking COVID19 Vaccine Safety:
Get personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)
VAERS is the national system that collects reports of adverse events that happen after vaccination.
- Vaccine Reporting Systems
Learn how most reports about vaccine safety are being collected and tracked.
- COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring Systems for Pregnant People
Learn how CDC is monitoring the safety of COVID-19 vaccination in people who are pregnant.
- CBER Biologics Effectiveness and Safety (BEST) System (FDA) – A system of electronic health record, administrative, and claims-based data for active surveillance and research of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN ) – data from healthcare facilities, including long-term care facilities (LTCFs), with reporting to VAERS
- Genesis – will track COVID-19 vaccinations in long-term care facilities