A guide for parents of 5-11-year-olds

With a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 expected to be authorized for emergency use, many parents have lingering questions about how to proceed.

The Pfizer-BioNTech recording would be the first to be approved in the US for children under the age of 12

It’s because nearly 6.2 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with the number of newly diagnosed cases remaining “extremely high” in recent weeks, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported in mid-October. Fortunately, severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 were uncommon among children, it noted.

Most families seemed ready to have their young children vaccinated.

Two-thirds of parents with children ages 5 to 11 said they would likely get the shot once a vaccine was approved, according to a survey released in mid-October by the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project and the National Association of School Nurses.

Another poll, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, showed that about a third of parents would vaccinate their 5 to 11-year-old child “immediately” once a vaccine was approved, while another third noted that they would “wait and see” how it would turn out. vaccine worked. Nearly a quarter of parents, 24%, said they would definitely not have their 5-to-11-year-old vaccinated.

Meanwhile, 60% of parents of children ages 5 to 18 supported schools that require children to receive a vaccine to attend school in person, according to an Ipsos survey.

What should families know when the recording becomes available?

TODAY, Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School; and dr. Angela Myers, director of the infectious disease division at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Does my young child really need to be vaccinated?

It’s true that, for the most part, children appear to have milder illness than adults when they get COVID-19, both experts said.

“But it’s ‘for the most part’ important because some kids get really sick. And some of them get MIS-C, a complication of COVID, and some of them could end up with long-range COVID,” McCarthy noted.

“So the argument that there’s no point in vaccinating them because they won’t have problems with COVID doesn’t work for me.”

It’s also true that long-term effects of COVID-19 are less common in children, but “you don’t know in advance whether that will be your child or not,” Myers added.

“Just like you don’t know when your child will get infected with COVID, whether they’re going to have a serious illness or not,” she said. “We have seen many children in our hospital who have serious illnesses and are otherwise healthy. They’re not obese, they don’t have severe asthma, they don’t have underlying immune-compromising conditions.”

More than 700 children and teenagers under the age of 18 have died since the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Adult experience with the vaccine shows that getting the injection makes a big difference when it comes to preventing hospitalization and serious illness. “Certainly, we want that for our kids too,” McCarthy said.

Will it make a difference in ending the pandemic?

Vaccinating school-age children is an important part of getting them back to normal, as they can transmit the virus to other people, Myers said.

“When you immunize a child against an infection or virus, you are automatically protecting the adults in that child’s life,” she noted.

Children aren’t always the best at keeping their distance and washing their hands, so even if a child has mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, they can spread the disease to others at high risk and who could become very sick or die, McCarthy added.

“Vaccinating children helps protect us all,” she said. “Vaccination is literally our only way out of this pandemic. As long as there are unvaccinated people, the virus will continue to spread and mutate. Vaccination is a safe and effective way to get our lives back.”

Is the vaccine safe for children 5 to 11 years old?

Hundreds of millions of doses have been given nationwide and worldwide, and the vaccine has been shown to be safe, Myers said.

The version for children aged 5 to 11 years should be given in two doses 21 days apart, the dosage being one third that for adolescents and adults. Young children don’t need such a high dose of the vaccine to develop a similar immune response as adults, she noted.

In Pfizer’s study in children, the vaccine caused side effects similar to those seen in adults, including sore arms and fatigue. There is a small risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, especially in adolescent boys and young men, but the condition remains rare and most cases are mild and get better with treatment.

Meanwhile, the risk of myocarditis for children who have had COVID-19 is 37 times higher than for those who were not infected.

“There’s always the possibility of a vaccine side effect — that’s true of any vaccine,” McCarthy said.

“A lot of people don’t feel great for a few days, but they get better. The risks of a more serious side effect are very small. The risks of something bad happening from a COVID infection are much greater.”

Children with cancer or other conditions that weaken their immune systems should also get the vaccine, Myers said.


The vaccine has been carefully studied in children, with the data reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the CDC and the expert panels working with them, McCarthy noted. Every pediatrician she knows and the American Academy of Pediatrics think it’s a good idea to vaccinate children as soon as they qualify.

“It appears that the vaccines are safe and effective in children, just as they are in adults,” she said.

“It’s important to know that these studies have been done thoroughly and appropriately – when it comes to children and medical treatment, we take no risks. We take their health and well-being very seriously.”

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