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FAQs on COVID-19 vaccine for kids age 5-12

When talking to families about the COVID vaccine for kids, Dr. Cathy DiVincenzo often shares that the day she received her COVID-19 vaccine back in December 2020 felt like winning the lottery. 

She says, “All of us as healthcare workers experienced such joy and excitement knowing that we would be getting vaccinated against an illness that had taken so many lives and caused so much disability in terms of long-term illness.”

And while adults have had the opportunity to get vaccinated since early 2021, it’s only now that children ages 5-11 are finally able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. 

Many parents have been long-awaiting the COVID-19 vaccine for kids age five to under 12. Now that the wait is finally over, here are some answers to frequently asked questions so parents can feel empowered and informed. 

How can we sign up to get the vaccine? 

The vaccine is now available for children age 5 to under 12. Clinical trials are underway for children age 6 months to under 5 years old. We are receiving vaccine vials for kids ages 5-11 at regular intervals from the Skokie health department and are hosting vaccine clinics, as well as appointments for vaccination. To schedule, call 847-676-5394, email info@kidsfirstpediatricpartners.com or go to our parent portal.

Kids First has partnered with the Skokie Department of Public Health to make the process for getting vaccines as easy and efficient as possible. They have been a steady supplier of COVID vaccines for Kids First for patients and staff.

Why is it important for children to get the vaccine? 

Research shows these new vaccines are remarkably effective and safe. Like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), we strongly encourage eligible children and adults to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. With the rise in cases caused by the delta variant, getting vaccinated is especially necessary. This strain is more contagious, spreading at alarming rates and infecting more children. 

While COVID definitely tends to not be as severe in children, parents must also consider the risks and benefits of isolation including children’s mental health. However, there have been 24,000 hospitalizations of children under the age of 18, many of those in the intensive care unit.

There have been over 600 deaths in children under the age of 18 in the U.S. We certainly haven’t seen the magnitude of death that we have seen in the older population where we are now over 700,000 people. And without a safe and effective vaccine, that number in adults could have been much higher.  

There’s been a substantial increase in anxiety and depression since the start of the pandemic. Whether it was remote learning for three, six or twelve months, children’s mental health has definitely been negatively impacted. 

By vaccinating children, parents can ensure they will be in school without prolonged quarantines which can better protect their mental health, as well. 

Do kids experience long-term effects from contracting COVID-19?

Besides the risk of hospitalization or even death, COVID has caused kids to lose their sense of taste and smell for months. Once a child’s taste or smell is compromised, their eating habits suffer as well. 

Part of what makes humans hungry is when something smells amazing or tastes delicious. If children during their crucial growing time have lost their sense of taste and smell, parents can expect a bit of a decrease in their growth chart. 

That doesn’t mean it won’t pick back up and typically that sense does return, but it can take months. In the life of a developing child, this is a big deal. 

We’ve seen multiple patients struggle with fatigue and persistent respiratory systems after COVID. 

Long-haul COVID can happen even in people who had mild or no symptoms of COVID-19. The symptoms they experienced during the acute infection may not go away, even long after their infection is gone. Sometimes, long-haul COVID symptoms start after a person is feeling better. Or, if they were asymptomatic (didn’t have COVID symptoms), they may experience them weeks later. Any of these symptoms can be new and different, or they may be the same as the ones your child or teen had during the COVID infection.

The vast majority of our job as pediatricians is to watch kids grow and develop and to share in amazing milestones with them. Avoiding preventable diseases is key to that.

Which vaccine should my child get? 

According to the AAP, anyone who is eligible should get whichever vaccine is available to them. Right now, the only COVID-19 vaccine available for children in the U.S. is the Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccine. 

Two separate doses are given 21 days apart. The COVID shot for children 5 years to 11 years of age is a lower dose than the dose recommended for people 12 years and older.

Will we still have to wear masks? 

Masks will be around until a certain number of vaccinated people is reached. Vaccination is in addition to masking and still being careful with hand hygiene. 

Everyone is frustrated by wearing masks, but it’s still an effective way to keep everyone safe. Families who have vaccinations may still contract COVID-19, but getting the vaccine will keep them out of the ICU. 

We cannot stay masked forever, and the higher the vaccination rate, the sooner we will be able to stop wearing masks and social distancing.

What are the side effects of the vaccine? 

There is a remote chance that the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose of the vaccine. For this reason, your child’s vaccination provider may ask your child to stay at the place where your child received the vaccine for monitoring after vaccination. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include: 

• Difficulty breathing 

• Swelling of the face and throat 

• A fast heartbeat 

• A bad rash all over the body 

• Dizziness and weakness 

We monitor patients for 15 minutes after vaccination.

Side effects that have been reported with the vaccine are similar to what we see with other vaccines, including: 

  • severe allergic reactions 
  • on-severe allergic reactions such as rash, itching, hives, or swelling of the face 
  • myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) 
  • pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) 
  • injection site pain 
  • tiredness 
  • headache 
  • muscle pain 
  • chills 
  • joint pain 
  • fever 
  • injection site swelling 
  • injection site redness 
  • nausea 
  • feeling unwell 
  • swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) 
  • decreased appetite 
  • diarrhea 
  • vomiting 
  • arm pain 
  • fainting in association with injection of the vaccine 

Does the vaccine cause myocarditis?

One of the very rare side effects of the vaccine, particularly in teenage males, is the risk of heart inflammation, myocarditis. 

The cases are mild and resolve in a few days. The risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 infection is higher than the rate of cases from vaccination. This means that if your concern is the rare possibility of heart inflammation, the safer bet is vaccination. All cases that Kids First providers have seen have been mild and have not resulted in any serious outcomes. 

Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) have occurred in some people who have received the vaccine. In most of these people, symptoms began within a few days following receipt of the second dose of vaccine. The chance of having this occur is very low. You should seek medical attention right away if your child has any of the following symptoms after receiving the vaccine: 

  • Chest pain 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart 

Has the vaccine been used before? 

Millions of individuals 12 years of age and older have received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine under EUA since December 11, 2020. 

In a clinical trial, approximately 3,100 individuals 5 through 11 years of age have received at least 1 dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. In other clinical trials, approximately 23,000 individuals 12 years of age and older have received at least 1 dose of the vaccine. 

The vaccine that is authorized for use in children 5 through 11 years of age includes the same mRNA and lipids but different inactive ingredients compared to the vaccine that has been used under EUA in individuals 12 years of age and older and that has been studied in clinical trials. 

The use of the different inactive ingredients helps stabilize the vaccine under refrigerated temperatures and the formulation can be readily prepared to deliver appropriate doses to the 5 through 11 year-old population. 

For years people have always trusted their doctor for medical advice. There are great commercials on TV right now that have targeted adults who are vaccine hesitant and it shows the number of different doctors of different ages and ethnicities and the message is all the same: trust the doctor you love because they took an oath to do no harm. 

The process that this vaccine has gone through and the safety measures that have been looked at are really extensive. The fact that we know about any side effects, like myocarditis, shows that the vaccine reporting system in a case where a patient has an adverse reaction from a vaccine is reported effectively to a national database.

This shows that the system is working well. Doctors are all on board and want nothing more than to have the safe and effective vaccine to administer now. 

We are receiving vaccine vials for kids ages 5-11 at regular intervals from the Skokie health department and are hosting vaccine clinics, as well as appointments for vaccination. To schedule, call 847-676-5394, email info@kidsfirstpediatricpartners.com or go to our parent portal.

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