My adolescent nephew received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine this week. His parents thought about this decision, and discussed it, for a while before making the appointment. Both of them already have been fully vaccinated. Did they want to wait to get their son vaccinated or go ahead and get it done?
It’s a conversation they’ve been having since vaccines for adults were first released. Though vaccines for teens weren’t approved yet, they knew that at some point soon they would be, and (as parents) they would have to decide what’s best for their child. At what point and under which circumstances would they have him vaccinated?
As you may already know, on May 10, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration expanded emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include teens ages 12 to 15. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have endorsed use in this age group. The American Academy of Pediatrics also supports this decision.
That leaves many parents having to decide whether they are going to have their children vaccinated and whether they are going to do it now.
This article from Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia specializing in pediatric infectious diseases, addresses some of the concerns parents may have about their teen or preteen getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The following six questions and answers are provided from that article.
1. Does the vaccine work in adolescents?
Yes, recently released data from Pfizer-BioNTech shows that the COVID-19 vaccine seems to work really well in this age group.
2. How do I know whether the vaccine is safe for my child?
So far, the COVID-19 vaccine appears to be safe and well tolerated in adolescents.
3. I thought children were low-risk – do they still need to get the vaccine?
Currently, children represent nearly one-quarter of all new reported weekly COVID-19 cases in the U.S. While serious illness from COVID-19 is rare in children, it does occur – thousands of children have been hospitalized and at least 351 children have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. Some children who get seriously ill from COVID-19 may have underlying health conditions, but not all do. Vaccination will help protect children from developing serious illness.
4. What side effects might I expect for my child?
Nonsevere side effects may be experienced following vaccination. The most commonly reported side effects have been pain and swelling at the injection site. Other common side effects include tiredness and headache. Similar to young adults, some adolescents have experienced fever, chills, muscle aches and joint pain, which may be more common after the second dose. These effects are short-lived, however, and most resolve within one to two days.
5. Have there been any severe reactions among children?
No serious adverse events related to vaccination were reported in the Pfizer-BioNTech clinical trial. Serious allergic reactions have rarely been reported in older people. Anyone with a known severe or immediate allergy to the vaccine or any component of the vaccine should not get the vaccine. If your child has a history of any severe allergic reactions or any type of immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy, let the vaccine site administrator know so that your child can be monitored for at least 30 minutes after getting the vaccine. Parents should talk to a trusted health care provider or allergist if they have specific questions about the possibility of an allergic reaction in their child.
6. When will a COVID-19 vaccine be authorized for children younger than 12 years? COVID-19 vaccine makers have begun or are planning to begin testing COVID-19 vaccines in younger children. As more information becomes available, the authorized age recommendations may change.