By Joseph Wangeh, MD
McLeod Pediatrics Dillon
Children should be vaccinated against COVID-19 because they are making up a large percentage of the cases now. Adults have been able to be vaccinated for the majority of the year, but children were only able to start just over the summer.
Children ages 5 to 11 are making up about 10% of all COVID cases in the country since the middle of October. There have been about 8,300 hospitalizations for children in this age group due to COVID, and about 94 deaths in children have been associated with COVID-19.
We have seen a large increase in the number of vaccinations in the 12- to 17-year-olds, with over 7 million vaccines received just from the beginning of the summer when this was approved.
The Pfizer vaccine is the only one currently approved for children to receive. First, it was approved for the 12- to-17-year-olds.
At the beginning of November, it was approved for children ages 5 to 11. Overall, it has been shown to be very effective in this age group. It is approximately 90.7% effective two weeks after the second dose. The children in this age group are receiving about one third of the adult dose. Side effects are minimal.
Most of the teenagers who have been coming in for their well checks or other visits and have received the vaccine have no complaints. They experienced soreness in their arm, but other than that, they really had no side effects at all.
Common side effects in children are the same as we have seen in the adults; most commonly, a swelling or redness at the injection site or soreness in the arm for a day or two. Other possible symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, nausea, decreased appetite, similar to flu-like symptoms. The symptoms typically last 12 to 24 hours, and then the child is back to normal. Overall, any side effects would have a much shorter duration than suffering from COVID-19.
The vaccine is an mRNA, which has long been studied. In addition, there have been studies going on since the beginning of the pandemic and children have been included in those studies. There is a tremendous amount of safety data on the patients who were enrolled in the studies. These patients were also followed for about two-and-a-half to three months after they received their second vaccine. No major symptoms or long-term side effects were seen.
The other thing I think most parents are concerned about is that most kids are not really getting too sick from COVID, so why would they need to get the vaccine? Or their child has already had COVID, so why do they need to get another form of protection?
The biggest thing is that kids can get sick. They are ending up in the hospital, particularly kids who have some other medical conditions such as asthma, obesity or diabetes. Children who are already medically fragile have an increased chance of having to be admitted to the hospital. Those are the people we need to protect. The vaccine is not just protecting one family, it’s also protecting other people in the community.
The final thing I would say too, would be that even for children who have had COVID, the vaccine is shown to be more protective. We do not know what your natural immune system’s response is going to be or how long the infection will last, but we know how long the vaccine is going to protect you for.
By Joseph Wangeh, MD