The FDA has cleared the COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11. We can’t wait for children to start vaccinating soon once we have recommendations for the use of this vaccine from the CDC.
Families want to learn more about the vaccine for children, and of course, children have their questions. We sat down with Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, pediatrician and strategic public health manager for COVID-19 vaccination, to help answer some of the questions from local children and families.
Questions from children and families in their own words:
DS, parent: Why do you think it is important that I have my children vaccinated?
Dr. Mark: Most cases of COVID-19 in children are not serious, but COVID-19 can sometimes cause serious infections that require hospitalization. In rare cases, it can be life-threatening. We have had just under 950 COVID-19 cases in our youth (0-17) in King County in the past two weeks, two hospitalizations and one death.
We also know that children can spread COVID to others if they become infected. This is of particular concern when they are around high-risk groups, such as grandparents, other family members, or caregivers who may have medical conditions.
The FDA found that the vaccine was very effective in preventing symptomatic disease in children and there were no serious safety concerns. For my grandchildren, I know it will be a great relief to know that once vaccinated, they will be at lower risk of COVID-19 infection and the long-term effects of COVID-19. Their parents and I don’t want to see any of them end up with long-standing COVID symptoms.
Finally, our children have had so much to deal with in the past couple of years. It is encouraging to see them resume all such important activities in childhood. Going to school, seeing friends, and being a child again without fear or anxiety is what we all want. Vaccination will help reduce some of the anxiety children and adults have been experiencing for nearly two years, as we can feel more reassured by having this critical level of protection.
JS, 11 years old: What is the difference, if any, between the vaccine for children aged 5-11 and the vaccine for 12 and older?
Dr. Mark: It’s a Pfizer vaccine, but it’s specifically for children – it’s like we have aspirin for adults and aspirin for children as well. The vaccine for younger children is made the same way, but is a smaller dose formulated for younger children and has a formula that makes it last longer in chilled temperatures. The dose is 10 micrograms for children instead of 30 micrograms for adolescents and adults. Doctors and nurses will receive orange-capped bottles so they know they have the right vaccine to give to younger children. Younger children, teenagers and adults receive two injections three weeks apart.
AP, parent: I am a bit undecided whether to vaccinate my son. I took my parents to get vaccinated right away because I knew they were at higher risk. I can’t understand why I’m a little nervous.
Dr. Mark: I understand why you would be insecure and perhaps anxious and I thank you for taking the time to make sure you are doing the right thing for your child. With so much misinformation circulating, it’s important to speak to a trusted doctor who can address your concerns.
I would look at the safety track record of the millions of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine doses given to date. As a pediatrician, I know that children aren’t just little adults. This is why the clinical trial for children 5-11 was so important and why it took some time to approve a vaccine for children.
The clinical trial looked at the safety of the vaccine in children. The study included about 2,250 children, two thirds of whom received the vaccine and the other third a placebo, meaning they did not receive the vaccine. While the clinical trial is still ongoing and more data will be collected over time with more numbers, there have been no cases of severe allergic reaction or myocarditis – a rare inflammation of the heart – in the three-month follow-up period after vaccination. . Common temporary side effects included redness and pain in the arm where the child received the vaccine, headache and fatigue. Studies in older children and adults have shown that the risks of myocarditis are greater in people with COVID-19 than with the vaccine.
The FDA and CDC have several systems to continuously monitor the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine to investigate potential safety concerns.
The CDC’s Independent Vaccine Expert Group (ACIP) will evaluate the data this week to consider vaccine risks with the benefits of being protected from COVID-19 disease. Our Public Health team will continue to share information as it becomes available.
NS, 8 years old: My question is: Does the COVID vaccine hurt more or less than the flu shot?
Dr. Mark: I know a lot of guys might be wondering. The shot you feel from a flu shot is very similar to the shot you will feel when you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. You will feel a pinch and it will go away very quickly. You’ve probably had a sore arm, felt sore, and possibly had a fever with other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine can cause those same temporary feelings, and they usually go away in 1-2 days.
AB, parent: Where will it be Can i get the vaccine for my child?
Dr. Mark: There are still a few steps before the COVID-19 vaccine for children is available, including CDC approval and recommendations expected this week. There are approximately 183,000 children between the ages of five and eleven in King County. It will take some time before there is enough vaccine available to meet the need. Unfortunately, we will all have to be a little patient as we wait for sufficient supplies to arrive.
In any location, the number of appointments will depend on the number of employees available and the availability of sufficient vaccines. The supply of pediatric vaccines will initially be limited. When the vaccine is available, it will be at:
- Some pediatric and family clinics and community clinics.
- School Clinics: We are working with school districts to create clinics with vaccine providers. Families should seek messages from their school or school district in the weeks to come.
- King County Vaccine Partnership Sites throughout the county.
- Some retail pharmacies.
As we have more information on vaccine availability for children, we will share how to make appointments on our How to get vaccinated webpage. Kingcounty.gov/vaccine
Originally posted 11/21