Back-to-school season is around the corner, and COVID-19 vaccines are available nationwide for adults and children. But there’s still some concern for parents considering getting their children vaccinated. What does it mean for in-person learning and schools? What do experts recommend? Here’s what you need to know.
COVID-19’s impact on children
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported fewer COVID-19 cases in children, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune from the virus. Children can be infected with COVID-19, get sick, and pass it to others. Most children usually experience mild symptoms, but the long-term emotional, social, and mental effects of the virus and pandemic shouldn’t be overlooked.
However, babies under the age of 1 may experience difficulty with COVID-19 due to smaller airway passages and less developed immune systems. Most children and babies rarely show symptoms and may act normal with the virus, typically like a mild cold. If you suspect your child is sick or has COVID-19, it’s best to keep them home and isolated from others because they can spread the virus.
What parents need to know about the vaccine for kids
Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been tested in younger children for safety and effectiveness. But as of now, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children 12 and up. So far, at least 600,000 children have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Moderna’s vaccine has also been tested on children ages 12-17. Findings will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration this month in hopes of emergency use.
But recently, the CDC has reported an increase in reports of child illnesses post-vaccination. Myocarditis and pericarditis, also known as inflammation of the heart muscle or lining, have impacted vaccinated children. The CDC believes that any risk of these diseases outweighs the recommendation for children to get the vaccine. So far, the reports of these diseases are rare, and many have recovered. The vaccine is still proven effective against serious illness from COVID-19.
Generally, the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine for children are mild and go away within 48 hours. Most children have pain at the injection site, headache, muscle pain, and chills.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine be required for school?
Over 200 colleges and universities, including Yale and the University of California, are requiring students, faculty, and staff to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus. It begs the question about school-aged children. As of now, children are encouraged to get vaccinated, but it is not a requirement. Keep in mind that the vaccine decision will vary depending on the school district. Returning to in-person learning isn’t a big concern for kids catching COVID-19 if preventative measures like social distancing, mask-wearing, disinfecting, and frequent hand washing are still in place.
Moderna has already started clinical trials in children ages 6 months to 11 years old and plans to test 6,750 children in the United States and Canada. The biotech company recently applied for full FDA vaccine authorization with the hope that children will be vaccinated soon. If the vaccine is approved for younger children, it may be a requirement, just like other vaccines are.
A parent’s perspective
Even though children are less likely to become severely ill from COVID-19, getting them vaccinated prevents them from the unknown of passing the virus to others or having more unexpected severe symptoms. On the flip side, there’s also the unknown of the long-term effects of a new vaccine. I stand in support of the vaccine for my children and family.
COVID-19 has made a long-lasting impact on our community, especially our children who quickly adapted to the “new normal” of playing alone, remote learning, and wearing a mask. It’s one of the many other milestones in their rapid development — I have confidence in the researchers, experts, and guidance regarding the vaccine. Yes, it’s a serious decision that’s very difficult for many families. Use your best judgment, and don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s pediatrician for any personal concerns or questions based on your child’s health.
COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs
Yes, the CDC reports that children can get the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines without waiting 14 days in between doses.
Your child can get the vaccine anywhere they are available. You can also check with their pediatrician to see if they are administering it.
The vaccine is free for everyone ages 12 and up. Never pay for a COVID-19, and report any scams to the Federal Communications Commission.