Now Approved for Ages 12 to 15, Here's Six Things Parents Should Know about the Pfizer Vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 years old. The announcement comes as the rate of vaccinations across North Texas and the U.S. have slowed. The vaccine has one last hurdle to cross. According to The New York Times, an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to meet shortly to review the data and recommend the use for this age group.
With immunizations likely to begin for children ages 12 to 15 very soon, parents may be wondering if they should get their child vaccinated. Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of pediatric infectious diseases at Cook Children’s Medical Center, answers some questions parents are likely asking themselves.
Why should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?
While children typically have milder symptoms from COVID-19 infection, they can become very ill and require hospitalization. In rare cases, life-saving measures such as ventilators and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which oxygenates a patient’s blood outside of the body, have to be used on young COVID-19 patients. Children can also experience long-term symptoms of COVID-19, a diagnosis known as ‘long COVID,’ as well as a disease called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Both of these syndromes can occur weeks after a COVID-19 infection in which the child may or may not have shown any symptoms.
Children and teens can also spread COVID-19 to more vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and immunocompromised. Getting this population vaccinated is a key step in reaching herd immunity and defeating COVID-19.
How do I know the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe for my child?
Like the vaccines approved for teens ages 16 and up, as well as adults, Pfizer-BioNTech conducted research trials to examine the effectiveness and side effects for kids ages 12 to 15. According to a company press release, the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in this group and did not trigger any different side effects than the older age groups.
Pfizer-BioNTech turned this data over to the FDA for review. The FDA thoroughly examined the research, just like they did for the other age groups, and issued the emergency use authorization after deeming it safe and effective.
What side effects will my child experience after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine?
Hopefully none, but there are some minor side effects reported with this vaccine. The most common symptom reported in the Pfizer-BioNTech trials for kids age 12 to 15 is a sore arm, similar to receiving a flu shot or other vaccines. More than half of participants also reported feeling tired and/or having a headache. Less common symptoms include chills, muscle and joint pain, fever, swelling and redness at the injection site, nausea and swollen lymph nodes.
What if my child is scheduled for routine shots such as Menactra, HPV, TDAP?
Because the COVID-19 vaccine is new and we don’t yet know how it will interact with other vaccines, children cannot receive other shots within 14 days before or after their two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. This means your child will have a seven-week window when they cannot receive other vaccines.
If your child is entering 7th grade in the fall, you may want to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss when to get the vaccines they will need for the upcoming school year.
When will younger children be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Pfizer expects to apply for emergency authorization for children between the ages of 2 and 11 in September. If approved by the FDA for emergency use, these children could get the vaccine by the end of the year.
Where can I go to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for my child?
Due to the strict requirements for storing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Cook Children’s is not offering the COVID-19 vaccine to patients at this time. We are partnering with Texas Health Resources to make sure our 12+ patients have a place to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Cook Children’s patient families can visit TexasHealth.org/CookChildrens for more information.