Your patients who are parents may be wondering what there is to know about the COVID-19 vaccine’s effects on children and whether their child is eligible, among other things.
This can be a stressful time for parents, as many children have gone back to school and cases continue to present around the country (in the week ending October 10, 14 states reported an increase in COVID-19 cases).¹ What can you tell concerned parents?
At What Age is a Child Eligible for the Vaccine?
Currently, anyone 12 years of age or older is eligible for the vaccine, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children under 12 wear a mask in public spaces.²
It is possible the cutoff may change soon, however. Recently, Pfizer and BioNTech requested that their vaccine receive authorization for emergency use in children ages 5 to 11.³ The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set aside October 26 to discuss their application.
Which Vaccine Will They Receive?
Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only one that has been authorized for use in children ages 12 to 17.¹ Moderna has enrolled children ages 6 months to 12 years in trials for their vaccine.⁴
What Are the Potential Side Effects?
The potential COVID-19 vaccine side effects in children are similar to those in adults. They may experience pain, swelling, and redness at the site of the shot, as well as fatigue, muscle pain, chills, headache, fever, and nausea.¹ Should children experience these symptoms, they are not expected to last longer than a few days.
Although rare, there have been reports of myocarditis and pericarditis in children who receive the vaccine.⁵ These cases most often occur after the second dose and within several days of the vaccination. The CDC recommends seeking medical care if a patient or their child experiences chest pain, shortness of breath, or a fast heartbeat. Additionally, they note that patients who receive care generally respond well and recover quickly. While the CDC continues to examine the data of these cases, they recommend that children ages 12 and older still receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to both the rarity of this complication and the potential severity of COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC also recommends discussing children’s allergies with their physician in preparation for the vaccine.
Are Children at Risk for COVID-19?
Although children may be less likely to develop a severe illness from COVID-19, they are still at risk for getting and transmitting the virus. Children made up nearly 30% of American COVID-19 cases in September, and the Delta variant has led to more hospitalizations among children with COVID-19 than in any other period of the pandemic.⁶
1. Here’s where COVID-19 cases are rising and falling. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/here-are-the-states-where-covid-19-is-increasing-2. Accessed October 12, 2021.
2. COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/adolescents.html. Updated August 17, 2021. Accessed October 12, 2021.
3. Pfizer, BioNTech seek U.S. COVID-19 vaccine clearance for children 5-11. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/pfizer-biontech-ask-us-regulators-ok-covid-19-vaccine-kids-2021-10-07/. Updated October 7, 2021. Accessed October 12, 2021.
4. Griffin R. Moderna doubles kids vaccine trial group after FDA request. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-11/moderna-doubles-trial-size-in-young-children-after-fda-request. Updated August 11, 2021. Accessed October 12, 2021.
5. Myocarditis and pericarditis after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/myocarditis.html. Updated September 8, 2021. Accessed October 12, 2021.
6. Parker-Pope T, Blum D. Answers to your questions about Covid vaccines and kids. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/article/kids-covid-vaccine.html. October 7, 2021. Accessed October 12, 2021.