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What parents should know about the COVID-19 vaccination for 5-11 year olds


A COVID-19 vaccine has finally arrived for children aged 5 to 11 – and with it some important questions from parents.

Many wonder about safety, said Dr. Donna Curtis, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Colorado Children’s Hospital in Aurora. Others wonder if the coronavirus is a threat enough to their child to need a vaccine.

Here are answers that might help.

What is the vaccine and where can I get it?

It’s one-third the dose of the Pfizer vaccine that has been given to adults since December 2020 and to adolescents 12 years and older since May. Ten million Americans have received the Pfizer vaccine and it is considered very safe.

Data presented to the Food and Drug Administration showed that the new dose was 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in 5-11 year olds.

The vaccine is being distributed through pediatricians, pharmacies, and others, according to a press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Full capacity should be achieved from Monday. The locations are listed under vaccines.gov. As with adults and adolescents, toddlers will need a second dose three weeks later.

Does my child even need a vaccine against COVID-19?

“We don’t consider children the highest risk group,” said Curtis, who researched vaccines in immunocompromised children. However, as of October 10, nearly 2 million 5-11 year olds contracted COVID-19 and 94 died, according to data reviewed by the CDC’s Vaccine Advisory Board.

COVID-19 has also been linked to multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a condition that causes swelling of the heart, brain, and other organs. By early October, more than 5,200 children had been diagnosed with MIS-C and 46 died, according to CDC data.

A vaccine goes beyond protecting the child who receives it, Curtis said. It can stop the disease from spreading to nearby children and family members, some of whom may have conditions that put them at higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19. These conditions include obesity, diabetes, a weakened immune system, and congenital heart defects.

The likelihood of a child developing severe COVID-19 requiring hospitalization or developing MIS-C is still slim, “but the risk is still too high and too devastating for our children and much higher than for many other diseases we vaccinate children against. ” “Said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky told the agency’s advisory board before reviewing the security data on Tuesday.

What are the possible side effects of vaccination?

Common side effects are pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site. Some children had a fever, tiredness, aching limbs, headache, chills, or swollen lymph nodes – similar to adults.

Among the 3,109 children in the clinical trial that tested the Pfizer vaccine in this age group, there were no serious side effects, the FDA said at the time of emergency approval.

What about the risk of heart problems like myocarditis and pericarditis?

Although no cases were seen in the clinical trial, myocarditis and pericarditis – swelling of the heart muscle or its lining – were an uncommon side effect in other groups, especially in adolescents and young men who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

That problem affected a small percentage of people who were vaccinated, Curtis said. The FDA used statistical models to predict the risk of heart inflammation in 5-11 year olds and concluded that the overall benefit of vaccination far outweighs the risk.

As a parent, Curtis said she understood that heart infections sound scary. “But in general the illnesses are mild to moderate,” she said. Patients are hospitalized, given ibuprofen or a similar drug, and go home in a few days, generally with no long-term problems.

The risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 itself is much higher, she said.

My child already had COVID-19. Do I still need a vaccination?

“The recommendation is yes,” said Curtis. Immunity can decrease over time. “We hear more about it when we talk about vaccines, but we’ve seen just that with coronavirus infection.” A vaccine can boost your immune response and prevent future infections.

Most of my child’s classmates get vaccinated. Can I count on herd immunity?

“I don’t think this is a sure thing,” said Curtis. People who are vaccinated are less likely to get sick, are protected from serious illnesses, and seem less likely to spread the disease. But they can still get infected, and they can still be contagious.

In addition, an unvaccinated child would be at risk of contracting the coronavirus from an adult outside of school, Curtis said. “I think the only way to get the maximum protection for your child is to get them vaccinated.”

What can I do to protect my children who are too young to be vaccinated?

“You can protect them by vaccinating everyone in the household,” Curtis said, and by making sure their caregivers are vaccinated too. It’s called “cocooning,” she said – to surround the people who can’t be vaccinated with people who are.

In the meantime, people should also continue with actions such as social distancing, wearing masks indoors in public for those ages 2 and up, hand washing, and avoiding areas of higher risk.

What other factors should I weigh?

By protecting a child from disease, a vaccine protects the well-being of an entire family, Curtis said. “We prevent the parents from being released from work, the child from school. We prevent a possible hospital stay” and long-term problems such as the sometimes debilitating symptoms that come with “long-term COVID”.

Children can easily pass diseases on to adults, Curtis said. “So the benefits of vaccinating children are enormous.”

The CDC advisory panel was told that vaccinating children in this age group would prevent around 600,000 COVID-19 cases between November and March next year.

How can I prepare my child for the vaccination?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a page full of tips, such as speaking positively about the experience and reminding children that vaccines keep people healthy.

Should parents feel anxious right now? Or happy?

“This is something I’ve been waiting for a long time,” said Curtis, who has two children, ages 9 and 11. “And I’m very happy about it.”

COVID-19 can be severe in this age group, she said. “To me, the choice is clear that the vaccine is so much safer than my kids who are getting the coronavirus. And I can also help keep their friends safe and other people in our family safe.”

Editor’s note: Due to the rapidly evolving events surrounding the coronavirus, the facts and advice presented in this story may have changed since it was published. Visit Heart.org for the latest coverage and check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities for the latest guidelines.

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