With COVID-19 vaccines now widely available for children six months and older, we join pediatricians and pharmacists across the country and urge parents to vaccinate their young children against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
Schools are open and more activities are moving indoors with the cooler weather, so now is the time to ensure your child’s vaccines are up to date. Vaccinated children are much less likely to be infected than children who are not vaccinated. They’re also much less likely to experience serious illness and less likely to need hospital care. Being vaccinated is much safer than simply hoping for the best.
We have children and they’re vaccinated. Like others, we are careful about giving any medicine, including vaccines, to our loved ones. Now, after reviewing the scientific data, we know vaccination against COVID-19 is essential for the most important young people in our lives. The pandemic is more than two years old, and the vaccines have been extensively researched. They are very helpful in preventing infection.
We want to address a few of the most common concerns parents may have about vaccinating their children against COVID-19.
The most common concern we hear is: “I’d like to wait until there’s more research into the safety of the vaccines.” Yes, COVID-19 vaccines are newer than the other childhood vaccines, but how much research would be enough? More than 10,000 children under age 12 were enrolled in the clinical trials for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The results: The vaccines are safe and effective. Waiting is neither safe nor effective.
Real-world experience has been even more extensive than original studies. Since the vaccines were authorized for children under age five years in June, more than 1 million children under age five have received at least one dose. The vast majority of side effects, if experienced at all, among these children were brief and mild.
Some parents say: “My children already had COVID, so they don’t need the vaccine.” We wish that were true! Unfortunately, natural immunity doesn’t last as long as immunity provided by today’s vaccines. For COVID-19, the disease won’t protect a child against re-infection as well as vaccination would.
Relying on infection for future immunity rather than preventing infection through vaccination carries several important risks:
Uncomfortable symptoms. Even a mild case of COVID-19 feels worse than the brief and mild side effects that may follow vaccination. COVID-19 disease can make a child congested, short of breath, and overwhelmingly tired. It’s no fun!
Symptoms last. COVID-19 disease can last for weeks and keep a child out of school and sports for many days. Alternatively, your child does not need to miss school or sports after vaccination.
Virus spreads. Infected children often pass the virus to the rest of the family and their friends. Vaccinated children are much less likely to do so.
Long COVID. There’s also the chance that COVID-19 disease can lead to “long COVID” symptoms. The data on children aren’t yet complete, but nearly one in five adults who have ever had COVID-19 say they still have at least some long COVID symptoms.
We’re both members of health care teams who work together to get our communities vaccinated. In many areas of the country, pediatricians and pharmacists refer patients to each other for vaccination. Parents can vaccinate their children during regular well-child medical visits or a visit to their nearby pharmacy. Our teams consist of highly trained professionals who have vaccinated thousands upon thousands of adults and children. We’re prepared to answer questions that a parent or caregiver has — all with the goal of using every tool we have to protect your children from preventable diseases.
The next time you’re in our medical offices, clinics, or pharmacies, ask us about the COVID-19 vaccine for your children. As always, the final decision is up to you. And we’ll do our best to answer every question you have.
Sharon G. Humiston is a pediatrician. Damika Walker is a pharmacist.
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