COVID-19 Vaccine Authorized for Young Children: Answering Parents' Top Questions
This means that all Americans ages 6 months and older are now eligible for vaccination. Here's what parents need to know.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have cleared the way for children under 5 years old to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines for the youngest age group will begin this week. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommended that all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
This expands eligibility for vaccination to nearly 20 million additional children and means that all Americans ages 6 months and older are now eligible for vaccination, the CDC said.
Parents may be wondering if they should get their children vaccinated. Vaccines are the best way to prevent serious illness in people of all ages, including children.
The COVID positivity rate has slowly increased at Cook Children's.
The rolling seven-day average positivity rate:
- June 20: 10.6%
- June 5: 8.4%
- May 5: 3.5%
Based on available data, our health care providers and pediatricians at Cook Children’s strongly recommend that parents get children vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.
Moderna's vaccine, for children 6 months through 5 years old, is two shots spaced one month apart.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for children 6 months through 4 years old, is three shots over the course of 11 weeks.
The vaccines are being distributed and will be available at thousands of pediatric practices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, local health departments, clinics and other locations, the CDC said.
Cook Children’s is currently working on its plan to distribute vaccines to pediatrician offices and will announce details regarding scheduling soon.
Laura Romano, D.O., a hospitalist at Cook Children’s Medical Center, has two children, an almost 4-year-old daughter and a 20-month-old son.
“My son was exposed and tested positive when he was 10 months old. We were very fortunate because I had received my COVID vaccine when he was 8 weeks old so he had plenty of antibodies and protection from me and my immune system,” Dr. Romano said. “We escaped his illness with two days of congestion and one day of fussiness. I, unfortunately, know that not all families have been as lucky.”
“These are some of our most vulnerable patients, and being able to provide them protection against COVID will be a huge relief to so many parents, including me!” Dr. Romano said. Here are her answers to some frequently asked questions:
Why should my child get the COVID vaccine?
It is extremely important to get everyone who is eligible vaccinated.
Vaccinating against COVID is what will continue to allow everyone to return to a more normal life.
People who are fully vaccinated are significantly less likely to spread COVID-19 because of their smaller viral load, which means a lower risk of transmission to others. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m so excited to get my children vaccinated against COVID. My father is a type-1 diabetic with rheumatoid arthritis who is immunocompromised due to his medications, and I always worry about accidentally spreading COVID to him.
Additionally, someone who is vaccinated against COVID, even if they are exposed and test positive for COVID, is at a significantly decreased risk for complications such as ICU admissions, the need for life support and death.
Here at Cook Children’s between Dec. 19, 2021 and Jan. 15, 2022, there were more than 14,800 children who tested positive for COVID at their pediatrician’s office, a Cook Children’s Urgent Care, or at the medical center. Out of 321 patients who required hospitalization, only 18 were vaccinated against COVID. Out of the 37 patients admitted to the PICU with COVID, only two were fully vaccinated. This data strongly suggests that the vaccine is effective at preventing hospitalizations and at preventing ICU admissions.
COVID vaccines also help prevent MIS-C, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. MIS-C is a potentially very serious complication that we see four to six weeks after a COVID infection or exposure. Out of a large cohort of 21 million vaccinated young adults, only 21 children developed MIS-C after COVID vaccination. This tells us that not only can a COVID vaccine prevent severe illness from an acute infection, but it can also prevent some of the more serious complications following COVID exposure.
COVID vaccinations also prevent long-haul symptoms such as daily headaches and persistent fatigue. Although not common, we do see COVID long-haul symptoms in a pediatric population. Patients who are fully vaccinated against COVID are 50% less likely to develop long-haul symptoms.
COVID vaccines do not affect a woman’s fertility. The American College of OB/GYN, the Society of Reproductive Endocrinology, and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine have recommended COVID vaccination for all women whether they are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
On a more practical aspect, a fully vaccinated person will also have different quarantine requirements after exposure or testing positive for COVID. As someone who lived through a 10-day quarantine, I would not recommend or want to repeat it. A fully vaccinated person can have shorter quarantine periods.
How do we know it’s safe for children 5 and under?
Despite the name “Operation Warp Speed,” the process to investigate and certify the vaccine did not cut any corners. Throughout the vaccine development process, researchers had to follow the same procedures and regulations as if they were developing a new medicine for headaches or blood pressure.
In addition, both the Pfizer and Moderna studies have increased their sample sizes throughout the process to make sure that side effects or reactions are not being missed. Participants in the study were closely monitored.
Should parents get their children vaccinated, even if their child recently had COVID?
Children should be vaccinated even if they already had COVID. Some studies have suggested a second or a third infection can be associated with more severe disease. More severe disease could mean hospitalization, ICU admission and even death.
Some infectious disease experts recommend waiting three months after COVID infection before being vaccinated so that the vaccine has the maximum effect.
Why should my child be vaccinated if they have already had COVID?
I hear a lot of parents, neighbors and friends say that they tested positive for COVID and only had mild flu-like symptoms. However, this is not always the case. While I’m happy that your first case was mild, please know that your second infection may not be the same.
What if I live in an area with a low number of cases?
If you live in an area with a low number of cases, please still get your vaccine. With the global nature of our world, you will have plenty of opportunities to come into contact with people who come from areas with high number of cases.
COVID vaccines can also be extremely important if you want to travel. Some countries or cruises require you and your child to be fully vaccinated before travel.
Do I have to vaccinate my baby on schedule if I am breastfeeding him/her?
After a breastfeeding mother is vaccinated against COVID-19, antibodies pass through her breast milk to her baby. Various studies have found that the 87 – 95% of babies were given immunity through their mother’s breast milk against COVID-19. If it’s been more than six months since the mother received her COVID vaccine or booster, she should consider vaccinating her baby at this time.
How soon after the vaccine will my child build immunity?
Immunity will begin after the first shot! Immunity and protection have been demonstrated in Pfizer recipients within 12 – 14 days after the first dose, but this will be very short-lived. Immunity will be more permanent two weeks after the second dose.
Are the side effects of the vaccine different for children?
The main side effects are very similar to adults. There will most likely be injection site tenderness and some muscle aches. There can be redness and swelling along the injection site. Most people report fatigue and malaise that should be resolved within 48 hours.
A very concerning side effect that we saw in young men was myocarditis. However, only saw four cases in every 1 million vaccines in children 5 – 11 years old.
How do I know if my child is eligible for the vaccine?
Any child between 5 years and 11 years old is now eligible for the vaccine!
There are only a few very strict contraindications to receiving the COVID vaccine. The two absolute contraindications are having a severe allergic or anaphylactic reaction to a prior COVID vaccine or a known allergy to a component in the COVID vaccine.
If you have any questions about children with known clotting disorders, heart problems, or prior neurologic processes such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, please talk to your primary care provider. The CDC recommends that these patients can receive a COVID vaccine with proper precautions.
About Cook Children's
Cook Children’s Health Care System embraces an inspiring Promise – to improve the health of every child through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, we’re proud of our long and rich tradition of serving our community. Our not-for-profit organization is comprised of nine companies, including our Medical Center, Physician Network, Home Health company, Northeast Hospital, Pediatric Surgery Center, Health Plan, Health Services Inc., Child Study Center and Health Foundation. With more than 60 primary, specialty and urgent care locations throughout Texas, families can access our top-ranked specialty programs and network of services to meet the unique needs of their child. For 100 years, we’ve worked to improve the health of children from across our primary service area of Denton, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties. We combine the art of caring with leading technology and extraordinary collaboration to provide exceptional care for every child. This has earned Cook Children’s a strong, far-reaching reputation with patients traveling from around the country and the globe to receive life-saving pediatric care. For more information, visit cookchildrens.org.