Vaccinations for COVID 19 have definitely been the topic of many heated discussions this past year. I hope to provide professional information to help our patient family make the decision whether or not to vaccinate their child against COVID 19.
What vaccines are available?
At the time of writing, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was the only available vaccine with emergency authorization for use from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for children ages 12-17 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was recently given emergency authorization for use in children ages 12-17 in the European Union (EU) by the European Medicines Agency and may soon be available in this country. Full FDA approval for these vaccines are still pending.
What are the health risks of not vaccinating my child?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the percentage of new pediatric cases of COVID-19 has been increasing when compared to new adult cases. In the month of April 2021, approximately 70,000 new pediatric cases were reported weekly in the United States, accounting for 22.4% of all new cases. (1) Since the onset of COVID-19 there have been nearly 4 million US cases of COVID-19 in children, with up to 2% of those resulting in hospitalization. Some conditions requiring hospitalization were acute respiratory failure, shock, cardiac dysfunction, and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Although a rare condition, MIS-C has been linked to COVID Long hauler symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and muscle pain that can persist for many months after recovery from COVID-19. Pediatric Intensive Care Unit admissions were more likely with preexisting conditions such as asthma, prematurity, diabetes, and obesity. (2) Death from COVID-19 has occurred in less than one percent of reported pediatric cases with the majority having preexisting conditions such as previously mentioned. (3) Post COVID associated infection cases of myocarditis (inflammation of heart tissue) in adolescents are also on the rise. (4) It is speculated that the overall rise in COVID cases can be attributed to the different variants that have arisen recently.
What are the risks if my child gets the vaccine?
Side effects have been similar in children 12 – 17 as they are for those 18 and over. Some of the more common side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are pain, redness, and swelling at the site of injection. Other side effects such as fevers, chills, muscle pain, headache, joint pain, and nausea can occur and typically last for one to three days. (5) In certain instances, more serious complications can arise including myocarditis, which has been recognized as a rare complication of COVID-19 mRNA vaccinations, especially for young adult and adolescent males. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when monitoring the vaccinations in June of this year, myocarditis rates after the second dose of COVID vaccination were above what was expected. (6) This prompted an emergency meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices later that month. During that meeting, the health risks from the vaccine and the health risks of COVID 19 infection were discussed and it was concluded that the benefits from vaccination outweigh its associated risks.
How do I report a reaction to the vaccine?
Vaccine adverse reactions are reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. To report vaccine side effects go to this website: https://vaers.hhs.gov/
Who should not get the vaccination?
Anyone who has an allergy to any of the components of the vaccination should not get it.
Here is the list of ingredients of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/clinical-considerations/covid-19-vaccines-us.html#Appendix-C
Will they need a third shot?
The FDA recently made the recommendation for those who have compromised immune systems to have a third dose of the vaccination. This includes children.
What are the recommendations?
It is recommended by nearly every professional medical association in the United States (and worldwide) that all individuals, ages 12 and over, should receive the COVID 19 vaccine, as long as they do not have a specific contraindication. Some of the prominent organizations include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, and the American Diabetes Association.
Canyon View Medical Group recognizes that the decision to vaccinate your child against COVID 19 can be difficult with all of the different information available to you. If you have specific questions or concerns, we urge you to please have a discussion with your provider.
Steven Weatherspoon, DO
CanyonView Medical Group
(2) Kim L, Whitaker M, O’Halloran A, et al. Hospitalization Rates and Characteristics of Children Aged <18 Years Hospitalized with Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19: COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1–July 25, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020; 69:1081–1088.
(3) Shekerdemian LS, Mahmood NR, Wolfe KK, et al. Characteristics and Outcomes of Children with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Infection Admitted to US and Canadian Pediatric Intensive Care Units. JAMA Pediatr 2020; 174:868–873.
(4) Lara D, Young T, Del Toro K, Chan V, Ianiro C, Hunt K, Kleinmahon J. Acute Fulminant Myocarditis in a Pediatric Patient With COVID-19 Infection. Pediatrics. 2020 Aug;146(2):e20201509. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-1509.
(6) Bozkurt B, Kamat I, Hotez PJ. Myocarditis With COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines.Circulation. 2021 Aug 10;144(6):471-484.