Recently, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for children ages five and up. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends that everyone ages five and up get vaccinated against COVID-19, “Widespread vaccination for COVID-19 is a critical tool to best protect everyone from COVID-19 and COVID-19 related complications. Children and teens who are fully vaccinated can safely resume many activities that they did prior to the pandemic.”
While this is very true, understandably, parents have questions and concerns about vaccinating their young children against COVID-19. That’s why we sat down with pediatrician Dr. Christine Holmes, M.D., F.A.A.P., to learn more about the coronavirus vaccine for children.
Q: Do kids really get sick from COVID-19?
DR. HOLMES: “Yes! As of October 2021, over 6.3 million cases of pediatric COVID-19 have been reported. In 23 states reporting, there have been over 25,000 hospitalizations and 30% of those are children without underlying medical conditions (these rates are higher than the flu). Over 5,217 cases of MIS-C (the severe pediatric COVID-19 complication) have been reported. Sadly, over 600 pediatric deaths have been reported making it a top 10 cause of pediatric death in the US. Kids can also become long-haulers of COVID-19.”
Q: Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective in children?
DR. HOLMES: “Yes! In pediatric clinical trials, it was 90-100% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 disease in children and teens. The vaccine is also effective against the delta variant and other known variants of concern.”
Q: What are possible side effects of the vaccine?
DR. HOLMES: “The most common side effects were pain at the injection site, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, diarrhea, and muscle or joint pain. More side effects were reported with the second dose and were mild to moderate. Rare side effects include swollen lymph nodes and skin sensitivity.”
Q: What about heart inflammation (myocarditis)?
DR. HOLMES: “This side effect has been linked to mRNA vaccines, but it is very rare. We expect 26 cases of myocarditis per one million administered doses. It’s more common among teen males and more common after the second dose. No children died from this side effect and all cases fully recovered. Vaccine-induced myocarditis is much milder compared to COVID-19 infection-induced myocarditis. The risk of heart inflammation was 21 times higher in girls and six times higher in boys with natural infection compared with the vaccine group.”
Q: What if my child already had COVID-19? Do they still need the vaccine?
DR. HOLMES: “Definitely! They will likely have ‘natural immunity’ for 90 days, but we know protection fades over time. Getting a vaccine helps strengthen the natural immune response. There is evidence that the vaccine actually protects better against variant strains of COVID-19 than natural immunity.”
If you’d like to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens, we also recommend the following resources: