Should I get the COVID-19 Vaccine for My Child When it becomes Available?
*Updated April 13, 2021*
Pfizer-BioNTech recently released information regarding their COVID-19 vaccine being safe and effective for children 12 to 15. The vaccine is currently available for use in those 16 and older based on previous trials and is approved for emergency use authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pfizer is expected to apply for an EUA for this younger age group in the next few weeks.
We know many parents have questions ranging from how safe the vaccine is for your child down to when it will be available. Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of infectious diseases at Cook Children’s Medical Center, and Nicholas Rister, M.D., a pediatric infectious diseases specialist agree it’s safe to get children vaccinated once it’s approved.
With this COVID-19 vaccine being available for children 16-18 in Texas, do you recommend them getting the vaccine?
Yes. Older children are more at risk and they are very social and aren’t always the best at social distancing. They are better at spreading the virus than younger children.
Should younger children get the vaccine when it’s available?
Yes. We thoroughly encourage vaccination when all the data is available and the FDA issues emergency use.
Should children still be wearing masks?
Yes, the downside to wearing masks is minimal and the upside could be lifesaving.
Is there anything still mysterious about the virus?
We don’t fully know the long-term effects of having the COVID-19 virus. We will be monitoring it for decades to come. Getting vaccinated is the best way to go to prevent contracting the virus.
Is there a possibility families can travel with their children this summer?
We aren’t quite out of the pandemic and you have to think about the risks. Make sure it’s worth going through the precautions and see if the risks are worth it for your family.
Are children good to go back to school in person once they’re vaccinated? Children have been going back to school in person, some of them for six or seven months. It's been shown that there's very little transmission in the schools when good precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing are followed. The CDC now says distancing only needs to be three feet in schools as long as everybody's wearing a mask. Children can go back to school safely, even if they're not vaccinated, but this has to be a decision families work out amongst themselves and their doctors. It depends on if your child has underlying medical problems, if your child lives with someone with underlying medical problems, or if your child is going to a school where they aren't doing social distancing and they're not masking. It’s an individualized decision, but once they're vaccinated, then it will be significantly safer at school.
When will children begin to be vaccinated?
According to the studies, teenagers should begin to be vaccinated in late summer. However, that is subject to change.
How do we know the vaccine is safe for children?Once the trials are done, the data will be reviewed by the FDA and then they will issue an emergency use authorization, just like they did for adults. The FDA will look at all the data to decide if it's safe. They won't approve the vaccine if it isn't.
Will higher-risk children be among the first to receive their vaccine?
That information is not yet available.
What is the age range for children once the vaccine is available?
Pfizer is currently approved for those 16 and older. The next group to get vaccinated will be 12 and older. They are currently doing ongoing studies on children as young as six months to 11 years of age. As that information gets evaluated by the FDA, they could approve it over time, all the way down to six months of age. This will all be done in phases. Twelve to 15-year-olds could be vaccinated in the fall. A couple of months after that, maybe 6 to 11-year-olds, and they'll keep adding and going down to younger ages.
What do I do if my child is scheduled for routine shots such as Menactra, HPV, TDAP, etc.?If your child has gotten their vaccines routinely, you would wait at least 14 days to do the COVID-19 shot. If they’ve got their COVID-19 shot, you would wait at least 14 days to do any other vaccines.
What do we know about the Pfizer study?
The study is shown to be as effective in teenagers as it is in adults.
How long should the Pfizer trial take for children 6 months to 11 years old children?
Those results will not be finished, evaluated, and presented to the FDA for several months. We are looking at late 2021 early 2022, and that is also subject to change.
Will Cook Children’s be providing vaccines once they’re approved and available?
Cook Children’s does plan to provide the vaccine to pediatric patients once it is approved and becomes available. More details will be available soon.
Will children still have to wear a mask after they’ve been fully vaccinated?
Yes, for the time being, but that could change with time. It's much less likely that children can give anybody COVID-19, and it's much less likely that children can catch COVID-19 infection once they’ve been fully vaccinated. The decision about when to stop wearing masks will be recommended by the CDC and we will follow their recommendation.
Will I get to choose which vaccine my child receives?
It is important to get your child vaccinated. The vaccinations that are available work well. It is not recommended to wait for any period to get a certain brand of vaccine if a different one is readily available for your child.
Are there any medical issues that would prevent my child from getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
The only thing that would keep your child from getting the COVID-19 vaccine would be is if they’re allergic to the vaccine components or if you have an allergic reaction to the first COVID-19 vaccine.
Is there anything else I should be aware of before vaccinating my child?
On April 6, Cook Children’s shared that suicide is now the leading cause of trauma death at the medical center. In March, a record 43 patients were admitted to Cook Children’s after attempting suicide. Getting our children vaccinated is important, as vaccinations are the only way we can put an end to this pandemic and have more sense of normalcy for children.