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Right now, over 20% of COVID-19 cases in the United States are in children, and while some children who become infected never show any symptoms of illness, more kids here have died from COVID-19 in the last year than have died from other illnesses that have had vaccines available, such as the flu or chickenpox.
Now that the Pfizer vaccine is available to children ages 12 and older, we encourage parents to weigh all scenarios when it comes to deciding whether to vaccinate kids against COVID-19. That includes looking at the risks associated with infection compared to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
COVID-19 Risk for Kids
Since we’ve been in the pandemic for over a year, we know that overall, children are getting less ill from COVID-19 compared to older adults. However, this doesn’t mean some kids who become infected aren’t at risk.
Many children who contract COVID-19 are being hospitalized for their symptoms, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 340 children have died. There’s also a growing risk of a COVID-linked disorder called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which can impact the heart along with other organs.
Research shows that the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from getting COVID-19, and serious illness in those who do become infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the vaccination can also help prevent children from spreading the illness to others.
Children who have already had COVID-19 are still encouraged to get the vaccine. It’s recommended to wait three months after their initial diagnosis to get the vaccine.
The COVID-19 Vaccine is Safe and Effective for Kids
Extensive clinical trials were conducted with thousands of participants, including those 12 and older, to evaluate the COVID-19 vaccine and generate scientific data and other information for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine its safety and effectiveness.
Now FDA approved for 16+ (and EUA approved for ages 12 to 15), the study that led to the Pfizer vaccine’s emergency use authorization (EUA) for children began. The study included more than 2,000 12- to 15-year-old children. Of all the participants who received the vaccine, none of the children got sick with COVID-19. This means that, in the study, the vaccine worked even better in children than it does in adults.
Can Kids with Special Needs Get the Vaccine?
The CDC recommends that everyone 12 years and older, including kids with special needs, get a COVID-19 vaccination. Patients who have had bad reactions to other vaccines in the past, or complex conditions should consult their specialist first.
Disability alone does not put your child at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. However, kids who are immunocompromised or have underlying medical conditions are ultimately at a higher risk of getting sick.
Learn more about the best strategies for keeping your child healthy in our Facebook video featuring pediatric infectious disease physician, Dr. Fatma Levent: COVID Variant Impact on Back-to-School.
Your Child May Experience Side Effects
It’s important to know that your child cannot get COVID-19 from a vaccine. However, children may experience side effects and feel a bit under the weather for a few days. That’s a good sign that their body is building up defenses against COVID-19.
Kids have reported the same side effects as adults after they’ve gotten the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Common side effects include:
- Muscle ache
- Pain, redness or swelling in your arm where you got the shot
To soothe a sore arm, apply a cool, wet washcloth to the area. To help them feel better with a fever, give them extra fluids and dress them in lightweight clothing. In addition, the CDC says it’s OK to take over-the-counter medicine to ease discomfort after the shot, but your child should not take any beforehand.
How Can My Child Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Many area county health departments are offering vaccines to those ages 12 and older. The CDC has a resource on how to find your local health department here. Those who wish to be notified when AdventHealth will be having a community vaccine event can visit CoronavirusVaccineAlerts.com. For more coronavirus vaccine information from our medical experts, visit our Coronavirus Vaccine Resource Hub.