The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is now available for everyone ages 12 years and older, and the vaccine is also in clinical trials for children under 12. Though some are still concerned about the safety of the vaccine, the CDC is recommending that everyone get the vaccine as soon as they are able to protect themselves from what we all know is a dangerous virus. Dr. Kersha Pennicott, pediatrician at Westmed, helps answer burning questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for children.
How effective is the vaccine for this age group?
The COVID-19 vaccine is extremely effective for this age group. The clinical trial showed that the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms for children ages 12- 15 years old. Experts have found a potential link between myocarditis (heart inflammation) and COVID-19 in patients. This article with one of our own Westmed pediatricians outlines why the potential risks of COVID-19 outweigh the risk of myocarditis after vaccination. As stated in the article: “The CDC, AAP, American Heart Association, and other major health organizations have taken the same stance: Everyone 12 and older should still get vaccinated against COVID-19.”
When do you think children under 12 will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Pfizer expects to seek Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine in children aged 2- 11 by early fall. For ages 6 months to two years, it is thought that the vaccine might be available by the end of the year/beginning of 2022. We will have a better idea as we head into the fall months.
Do you think it will be more dangerous for children under 12 to receive the vaccine?
No. There is a rigorous process for data collection and review before the vaccine can get approved for each age group. Parents can be assured that great care is taken to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for their little ones.
Do you recommend children under 12 get the vaccine when it is made available?
I highly recommend parents get their children vaccinated once it is approved. While kids in general have done well when infected with COVID-19, it has taken its toll on this special population. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of 6/3/2021 almost 4 million children have been infected, thousands have been hospitalized and hundreds have died which is a devastating loss to any family/community. Getting vaccinated will also help with a smoother return to in-person schooling in the fall. I encourage families to do everything they can to protect their children and that includes getting the vaccine once it is available.
In the meantime, what should children who are under 12 do until a vaccine is made available to them?
It is important to continue to protect kids by wearing masks around them and having your child wear a mask while out in public. Reinforcing the correct way to wash their hands is another key way to keep them safe.
If you have any questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine for your children your pediatrician can help give you evidence, fact based information to help you make an informed decision for you and your family.