COVID-19 Vaccine and Kids: Your Questions Answered
Revised: Dec. 31, 2020
We know that you have many questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and when it will be available for children. Information is changing rapidly, but we want to do our best to answer your questions with what we know so far.
About the Vaccine
In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the emergency use of two COVID -19 vaccines developed by the drug companies Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. This means that the vaccines can be offered to individuals in the midst of the current public health emergency even though drug trials are ongoing.
When can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna?
The FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older and the Moderna is for individuals 18 years of age or older.
The first supply of the vaccine is being offered to health care workers and the elderly living in long-term care homes.
The second wave (Phase 1B) is currently underway for people 65 years of age and people who are 16 and older with these health conditions.
At this time, Cook Children's is not vaccinating the general public or our patients and their families for COVID-19. Our focus is on our health care workers and others within our organization. We will update our website and share any relevant information with patients and families via our physician offices and social media in the near future.
To get vaccinated by Tarrant County Public Health for COVID-19, click here. To learn more about COVID-19, visit the TCPH website here.
So far, the vaccine has not been tested on anyone younger than 12. Kids aren’t just little adults, so more testing is needed before it can be approved for use in children. It could be several months before the vaccine is available for the general public, and it could be longer before it’s offered to anyone younger than 16.
We will continue to follow CDC’s strict criteria about who should receive the COVID-19 vaccine and when that should happen.
Will my child need a COVID-19 vaccine every year like the flu shot?
We don’t yet know if the COVID-19 vaccine will be once and done or if it will be needed every year. More studies are needed to understand whether or not the protection it provides is long term.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine similar to other vaccines?
The result produced from both traditional vaccines and the new COVID-19 vaccine is the same—an immune system response that produces antibodies. Those antibodies protect an individual from illness if they come in contact with the virus. But, the way in which other vaccines versus the COVID-19 vaccine produce that response is different.
Traditional vaccines are made using a weakened or dead virus that triggers the immune system to make antibodies against the virus. The COVID-19 vaccine uses genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) to instruct the body’s immune cells to produce a protein also found in COVID-19 so that the body can recognize the virus and produce antibodies against it.
More information about how an mRNA vaccine works is here.
Is it true that the vaccine requires two shots?
Yes. The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots spaced three weeks apart, and the Moderna vaccine requires two shots spaced four weeks apart.
Is the vaccine safe?
Studies of the vaccine’s safety are still underway, even for those being distributed under the FDA’s emergency use authorization. Even though these vaccines were produced faster than ever before, the FDA says safety measures have not been compromised and the benefits provided by the vaccine outweigh any risks associated with it.
Most people who reported an adverse reaction to the vaccine said they experienced the same reactions commonly reported with other immunizations such as:
- injection site reactions
- muscle pain
- joint pain
- fever for a few hours to a few days following a shot
Some vaccine recipients experienced swollen lymph nodes briefly after being immunized, which is believed to be a result of the vaccine activating an immune system response.
Of 38,000 Pfizer trial participants, four cases of Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes weakness in facial muscles, have been reported so far. All four cases occurred in vaccine recipients and none in placebo recipients (people who are participating in the trial but did not receive the vaccine in their shots). This is a normal rate of occurrence of Bell’s palsy in general—with or without a vaccine—but scientists will continue to observe any incidences of this condition as the vaccine is distributed more widely. The same is true for eight cases of appendicitis in trial participants who received the vaccine and four in those who received a placebo. Study investigators do not believe the appendicitis was related to the vaccine.
Is the vaccine effective in preventing COVID-19 disease?
Current data shows that Pfizer’s vaccine is 95% effective in protecting against COVID-19, while Moderna reports a 94.5% rate of effectiveness.
My child has underlying health conditions. Will the vaccine be safe for them?
More studies are needed to determine the safety of the vaccine in children, particularly those with underlying health conditions. Currently, there are no known risks for those with compromised immune systems because the vaccine does not contain a live virus. If your child has a history of allergic reaction, you should consult their pediatrician before vaccinating.
If my child has already had COVID-19, do they need to be vaccinated?
We don’t know how long one is immune to COVID-19 after getting and recovering from the virus. We also don’t know if the virus itself or the vaccination does a better job in producing immunity. So, for now, adults who have had the virus can be vaccinated after they have recovered. Hopefully, there will be data answering this question for children in the months ahead.
Where can I go for the most up-to-date information about the vaccine and when it will be available for children?
Cook Children’s is closely monitoring the status of the vaccine’s availability for children. For the most current information about COVID-19, its impact on children and answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine, go to checkupnewsroom.com.
You can also contact your local health department for more information:
Antibodies: blood proteins produced in response to and counteracting a specific antigen.
Antigen: a toxin or other foreign substance which generates an immune response in the body, especially the making of antibodies.
Appendicitis: An inflammation of the appendix, which is a small tube leading off from the intestine.
Lymph: a colorless fluid containing white blood cells, which covers the tissues and drains through the lymphatic system into the bloodstream.
Lymph nodes: a number of small swellings in the lymphatic system where lymph is filtered and lymphocytes are formed.
Placebo: a harmless pill or injection given during a clinical trial that may affect the mental and emotional state of a person but not the physical body.
Referenced source: Merriam-Webster